We welcome the witnesses who will appear before the Committee today, and thank them for their willingness to participate in this hearing.
Today represents the first in a series of hearings that the Committee will hold on aviation security. On March 9th, the Committee will continue its evaluation of TSA airline passenger screening programs, and examine the physical screening of airline passengers and their baggage. That hearing also will deal with screening technology, screener workforce issues, and TSA procurement processes.
The purpose of today’s hearing, however, is to examine two of TSA’s commercial aviation passenger pre-screening programs, Secure Flight and Registered Traveler. The emphasis of today’s discussion will be to review policy and management issues that have prevented TSA from launching these programs, and to determine the future of the programs.
I support the Administration’s efforts to secure all modes of transportation, as well as any program that yields a significant security benefit to Americans comparative to the cost of developing and operating the program. But the programs at issue today have been in development for four years and, for various reasons, have yet to come to fruition.
The Committee will seek answers from the witnesses regarding the costs associated with Secure Flight and Registered Traveler, the necessity and viability of the programs, and the timetables for their launch. The Committee also will examine the impediments that have caused delays, including privacy concerns, and even Congressionally imposed hurdles.
I look forward to a constructive dialogue with the witnesses.
Chairman Stevens Q&A with Witnesses
Chairman Stevens: Since September 11th, Congress has mandated multiple layers of security measures to secure commercial aviation, including explosive detection systems for baggage, enhanced screening procedures for passengers, the expansion of the prohibited items list, and hardened cockpit doors. In addition, new technologies such as full body imaging and explosive detectors for passengers are being deployed to airports by your agency to be used as secondary screening tools. With all of that, what really is the necessity of the Secure Flight program?
Secretary Hawley: The Secure Flight program is, I believe, an essential layer to that, which is to take known terrorists who could be threats to the aircraft and not let them get near the aircraft. And, it is part of the recommendation of the Intelligence Reform bill and the requirement of the Intelligence Reform bill and the recommendation of the 9-11 Commission. So, it is a system that is essential and has continued to improve and I’d like to just stress that every known terrorist, known to the U.S. government, is today denied boarding. In the real world of today that is in place and it will become better when Secure Flight is implemented, but we’re not waiting on Secure Flight for that.
Chairman Stevens: How much has your agency spent to launch this and finish the Secure Flight Program and what about the predecessor program CAPPS II? We’re interested in what we can do to assist, but it does seem like that program has taken a lot of money and there are others coming.
Secretary Hawley: Yes, sir. $44 million, I believe, is the money for Secure Flight. CAPPS II was a program that started off as a program to evaluate the security risk of the passenger. It was discontinued for the end of ’04 and Secure Flight went forward at that point just for the terror- match list watching. I think you put your finger on one of the key problems here and that is the architecture of CAPPS II, which is the original system was used as the base for building Secure Flight on out. And, the review that we’re doing now says, “Let’s just re-baseline it and say we’re going to do just the terror watch list matching and go from there.”
Chairman Stevens: I don’t want to embarrass anybody and I don’t want to get into any trouble at home, but we have people like Ted Kennedy being stopped, my wife Catherine Stevens being questioned whether she’s Cat Stevens. How do people get off these lists? How are they prevented from being approached in a redundant way once that’s been established?
Secretary Hawley: There is a process called the Redress Office where we have a phone number and website that people who have familiar names or names who are close to those of terrorists. They provide additional data. We give them a special number that then goes into their passenger record and that list is actually kept so that if they show up they are removed from that confusion. And, when it comes into Secure Flight, into the government, the system will run a little bit better because the system will be totally automated, whereas now it’s part of the airline process.
Chairman Stevens: Okay, I want to shift to you Ms. Berrick. I think that Congress mandated the GAO study 10 elements of this program, Secure Flight, and it seems to me that TSA has an impossible task to move forward because of the criticism its received from your agency on complying with those 10 points. Aren’t you really holding further actions by the detailed criticism you’ve given for so long on Secure Flight?
Ms. Berrick: Thank you Mr. Chairman. We are mandated to look at those 10 issues and we have been working with TSA to be clear on the criteria that we’re using to assess the program. But, I think the real reason for the program’s delays hasn’t been the review. It’s been, first of all I think, a lack of key policy decisions made by DHS and TSA regarding some critical aspects of the program that haven’t yet been decided. The big decision that hasn’t yet been made is what data TSA and DHS will require air carriers to provide. The air carriers are waiting for a rule to be issued. That rule has been pending for quite some time and hasn’t been issued. I think another reason for the delay is DHS’ oversight over Secure Flight. DHS has a mechanism in place called the Investment Review Board where the look periodically at major IT investments at every major milestone and at any time they feel the program needs to be reviewed to make sure it’s progressing. DHS hasn’t reviewed Secure Flight in over a year through that Investment Review Board process. And, in addition the development process of Secure Flight, the requirements haven’t been fully defined. TSA isn’t following its own established development process for major IT systems.
Chairman Stevens: Well, how can they finish it if you constantly are asking them questions about what they haven’t done? I would like you both to give us a timeframe. Mr. Hawley, has told us how much time has been spent, but I’m interested in how many people you’ve got holding up the total number of people he’s got, ok? Just for the record.
Chairman Stevens: Thank you very much for that comment. Well, Mr. May I’m back where I started before. This is not the subject of this hearing, but baggage still bothers me. And, I know that you’ve got a whole series, layers of security measures that you have to deal with and the question I asked the other day is, “Why isn’t that little box that a bag has to fit in to go under the seat right there beside the screeners?” I objected to someone walking in front of me who had two suitcases larger than mine and on the top little handle was a briefcase larger than my suitcase and it had, obviously a lot of computer stuff in it, neither one of them would fit hardly in the overhead, let alone under the seat. Now doesn’t the whole problem of these programs we’re discussing here, aren’t they affected by the time with which is takes to take all that baggage onboard an airplane?
Mr. May: The good news is that I’ve had a series of conversations with some of our most senior executives since you and I spoke the night before last on this subject. And, of course, it was a repeat of a conversation we had at another hearing in this room a month or so ago and I think the good news is that we share many of your concerns. The carriers are distinctly worried that people brining on more bags than are allowed, bringing on oversized bags, heavier bags, etc. is slowing down the process. It’s having a real impact on productivity and so I’m here to tell you today that we are committed to pulling the industry together to see if we can’t come up with some very real solutions. As you’ve identified, there was a time when those size-wise requirements were put on the TSA screening equipment so that if you didn’t fit through that size-wise, you had to go check it before you even went through security. And, I think that and a number of other ideas need to be explored as to how we go forward and I’ll commit to you today that we’re going to engage the industry right away.
Chairman Stevens: Thank you for that. Do you believe that this extra layer now in Secure Flight is necessary for security?
Mr. May: Senator, I think, quite frankly I shudder to think at the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on the bigger question of passenger pre-screening. And it’s quite frankly been wasted money because we don’t have a program today. I think we absolutely have to have a program that is simple, straight-forward, that matches passenger identification against appropriate watch lists, no-fly lists, etc. There probably is not a bigger priority for us and we’re the ones ultimately who are paying for this. We care more about moving people through the process faster and efficiently than probably anybody else in the business. And so I think that’s where the focus needs to be. I don’t think the focus needs to be, quite frankly, as popular as it may be on Registered Traveler. Mr. Hawley, my good friend, used the word “market-based” and I sort of cringe a little bit every time I hear that word “market-based” when it applies to aviation because it is generally translated into airlines pay. And I know that TSA, I looked at their budget the other day, plans on making about $30 million in this next cycle on Registered Traveler. I know that my good friend, Mr. Barclay, has a Congressionally-mandated monopoly on being the entity that checks all this. That was put in the appropriations bill last year. I know that a number of other people are planning to make a profit off of Registered Traveler and I’m a great free enterprise person. I think that’s all wonderful. But, what I don’t want to see is the airlines ending up paying for yet another failed program that doesn’t work for everybody and I’d like to see instead the focus placed on reducing those seven government programs down to one, those 34 or more data requirements that we are being hit with here and in countries all over the world simplified to a simple template so that we have security that works here, security that works in London or wherever the case might be. And, that’s where the focus of this Committee ought to be.
Chairman Stevens: Chip, when we look at this program, the new Registered Traveler Program, it appears as if it was merged with a eye-scan concept, something that it would give us a chance to deal with people who are really frequent fliers. Now, when you look at that program, have you looked at it from the point-of-view of fraud? Can it stand up alone? Can we depend on those cards? Do we have to have the eye-scan to go along wit them?
Mr. Barclay: Let me go back and say the big distinction, and I think Senator Burns’ comments about the two different programs points it out, Secure Flight – it’s a much harder program because it is looking for terrorists. Registered Traveler is about identifying people at least at first that we know are not threats to the system. That’s something we can do. We can figure out who are people who don’t threaten the system. We can avoid the problems that have been raised about identity theft and other problems by making sure biometrics are part of the system. And, that can be eye-scans, some people may be handicapped and wouldn’t have the ten fingerprint print can use eye scans. You can use the fingerprints so you make sure, each time that person you identified as not being a threat to the system goes through, you know that's the person that you've got there, because of the matching of the biometrics. It's very similar to what we're trying to do at airports with the access to secure areas, putting biometrics on many of the doors to make sure that, once we vet a person and know they're not a risk to the system, we know we've got that person every time they go through a door. We need to do the same thing with frequent flyers in the system, because, as everyone here knows, if you're someone who uses the system a lot, you're putting aside a lot of extra time, not because there are often delays or long lines winding through the terminals, but there are occasionally. So you put aside that extra hour every time you fly. The productive loss to people in the economy is enormous. And we have these fairly small number of people who represent a great percentage of the passengers that want to be treated like employees at the airports are treated now. If I can make a point, one thing that I think a lot of people don't realize is that everyday in this country we let hundreds of people on airplanes with loaded guns because we've done background checks on them and we trust them not to be dangers to the system. We could certainly let people, after doing the same kind of background checks on them, not take off their shoes, and not take out their laptop, and vet them through the system more quickly so we can direct our security assets to the higher risks. That's what the Registered Traveler is really about. It's saying: We've got limited security resources; let's use them on the highest risks, because we've got a lot of people who volunteer information on themselves and pay for the program to be able to eliminate themselves from the risk pool.
Chairman Stevens: Well, I do think a great many of those frequent flyer people will go to the Registered Traveler program. Their time is money. I mean, they are compensated by the hour. This system currently really is denying them the use of the valuable time, day time, that they have to use in pursuing their livelihood. I think it's a good program. Mr. Sparapani, I am a little disturbed about your testimony. And you want us to revoke the authorization for both Secure Flight and Registered Traveler and set up a process to deal with known terrorists?
Mr. Sparapani: I do.
Chairman Stevens: Have you got a list of known terrorists?
Mr. Sparapani: I'm sorry?
Chairman Stevens: Have you got a list of known terrorists?
Mr. Sparapani: No, but the government...
Chairman Stevens: Do you think we have a list of known terrorists?
Mr. Sparapani: I think the Terrorist Screening Center does. And that's the public statement from the FBI. Chairman Stevens: Well, I'm not so sure. You support the President's program right now that's under attack, in terms of intercepting and tracking the people called within this country from outside the country? You support that? Mr. Sparapani: Well, I don't want to equate the two programs, Senator.
Chairman Stevens: Well, I'm asking you if you support it. You oppose it, don't you?
Mr. Sparapani: We do oppose the unconstitutional application of that program.
Chairman Stevens: What do you support to determine who is a terrorist?
Mr. Sparapani: When we have good intelligence that has identified a threat to aviation, we believe there should be a list of those people. This is just common sense safety and security. That's the list that I want the government to use to screen for aviation security. And I think, if we do that, Senator, we're going to have vastly improved security without all the civil liberties deprivations that might arise from a bloated list. We can't simply have every Senator Kennedy – everyone who has a name like Senator Kennedy being stopped every time because there's an E. Kennedy on a list. You mentioned your wife's situation...
Chairman Stevens: But Kennedy was embarrassed, but I don't think he was really hurt. And I don't think any of us are hurt by trying to have the system check us to make sure we are safe to get on a plane with other people who are traveling. You seem to believe, though, we should somehow or other dream up a list of known terrorists and only they should be subject to screening.
Mr. Sarapani: I think we need to put our focused resources onto those people who pose the threat. And if we do so, Senator, I really believe that we're going to have vastly improved security. We really want to focus on those people who have the capability of threatening airline security. And we want to keep that list close. Right now, some of that list goes to the airlines everyday, but not all of it. So we're not currently vetting against... Chairman Stevens: But that's not your statement. You say you do not oppose the federal government keeping and maintaining a list of terrorists known to pose a threat to aviation security.
Mr. Sarapani: That's correct.
Chairman Stevens: If a person that's known to be a terrorist has other targets in mind, you would let him on the airplane, right?
Mr. Sarapani: No. Senator, if somebody's been violent, I would consider that somebody who is threat to aviation security.
Chairman Stevens: Well, how do you define a person that's a threat to aviation security as a terrorist, as opposed to other terrorists?
Mr. Sarapani: Again, if somebody's violent, Senator, and has a propensity, and the government has good intelligence based on that, we don't oppose having a list of those people.
Chairman Stevens: Respectfully, we don't have a list of people who are known to be a threat to aviation security. We are looking for terrorists generically.
Mr. Sarapani: Well, if that's true, Senator, then the no-fly list itself is faulty.
Chairman Stevens: Alright. You make some points in your testimony that appeal to some of us, in terms of trying to find some way to get to the point where we really have a system that works, but then you come down and say, “But it should only apply to people who have a threat to security.” I just cannot buy that, and I think that you destroy the value of your comments by telling us we should have a list of terrorists that are a threat to aviation security. I assume we'd have a list of terrorists that pose a threat to federal buildings. You know, this is getting down to the point where I just don't think we can find a way to predict terrorist acts.
Mr. Sarapani: And, Senator, we have an extra additional recommendation, which I think would resolve the concern that you're raising. We suggest that the money saved should be spent on those high-quality, narrowly tailored screening technologies, like this new puffer machine, if done right, that will prevent weapons and explosives from getting on planes. And if you do those two things, I think you're really going to demonstrably improve airline passenger safety and security. And I think that's what we all want.
Chairman Stevens: Mr. Sparapani, has your organization taken a position on the increase in fees for airline passengers that was discussed here?
Mr. Sarapani: Not directly, Senator. I wouldn't want to speak whether, you know, it's good from a free enterprise perspective or not for these fees. But we all want the flying public to be safer. We're trying to help. We want to work with you, and this Committee, and TSA to make the flying public safer, and that's the goal that we have and we cherish, as well.
Chairman Stevens: Thank you. Mr. Connors, do you depend on a poll of your members to present the statement you presented here today?
Mr. Connors: I'm sorry?
Chairman Stevens: Did you rely on a poll of your members or contact them in some other way to formulate your statement? You are representing the whole National Business Travel Association. I'd take it these are operators of travel bureaus and things like that, right?
Mr. Connors: No, actually, our members are people within big corporations across the country who direct, manage, purchase travel on behalf of all of those corporate travelers.
Chairman Stevens: Thank you...
Mr. Connors: So they're not agencies; they're within corporate travel. But to answer your question, we did make reference to a survey that we did with our friends at TIA where we surveyed frequent business travelers. And 92 percent of those wanted in on a concept, whatever that concept may look like in the end, called Registered Traveler. And I'd go a step further. And whether we have research or not, you've got an experiment down in Orlando that shows that there's a tremendous demand for this. You've got one airport, no interoperability, yet you've got 15,000 people down there who are willing to pay $80 and give up all sorts of background information, go through background checks. This obviously is going to have tremendous demand once you get more than one airport into the system.
Chairman Stevens: Did you discuss a limit on the cost of that card?
Mr. Connors: We haven't discussed that. And I think the marketplace would bear that out.
Chairman Stevens: Have you got a list – are you participating in a list of what registered travelers would be willing to disclose to get a card?
Mr Connors: Well, that's an interesting question. And we're sort of looking to TSA to wait to see what they are going to ask for and what they will get in return. There are two models that I think are being discussed, as far as Registered Traveler goes. There's the trust model, which is the one that you're talking about, where we ask for more and more background information and, based on that, we'll give you the okay to be in the program. Then there is the technology model that says, if we invest in certain technologies, we won't need as much information, whether it's foot screening equipment, things like that, to get people through without taking their shoes off and all that kind of thing. Both models, you know, we're interested in pursuing. But, again, we're just waiting for the details about what you need to provide for what you get. But you know and I know that there's a spectrum of people out there that some of them won't be interested in this program at all. They don't want to give up background information. That's fine. It's a voluntary program. Then there are people on this end of the spectrum – and I'd throw myself in this – who would probably give you blood, hair samples, DNA, whatever it is to get through that airport faster. And I think the experiment in Orlando shows that there's a tremendous demand for this, even though the benefits are pretty minimal at this point. It's one airport. And you can talk to the folks who are running that program. There are people buying cards for the Orlando Airport experiment who don't live in Orlando. They're just buying it on the back-end trip, because they do business there. So we think there's a tremendous demand. And you made the point that I think we make all the time about this particular program, and that is time is money. I represent America's corporate travelers, and time is indeed money. When I leave to the airport today – and I was a registered traveler here at Reagan Airport, and that program is no longer in use. And I have a whole different time that I leave for the airport now when I used to be in that program. I used to leave an hour before. Now I have to leave two hours before. That's an hour times every single trip that I take. Time is money.
Chairman Stevens: Have you participated with TSA in the discussions of the details of the Registered Traveler program?
Mr. Connors: We have. And we've been pleased that at least they've gone to the next step that says, "Yes, we're going to the next step." Again, we would like to see more details about what they're going to ask for, in terms of data on folks, and what they're going to offer, in terms of benefits.
Chairman Stevens: I failed to discuss this with the prior panel, but I found out during a recent travel that, if you buy a one-way ticket to a certain destination – let's take California; I was going there – and then I drove from that destination to another place, and then I had a ticket going on, I was treated differently than if I had had a ticket going from the first location. The segments are separated. And each one of them brings about an additional delay. Do you think the Registered Traveler program can be managed to take out that delay, so that a person having a series of tickets that are sort of looked at like they're one-way tickets would be treated the same way as someone that had a roundtrip ticket?
Mr. Connors: Right. Ideally, that's where we'd like to see the program go, that there is interoperability between airports. So all I need is my biometric card, and I won't have that issue, whether it's at that airport or the one that I'm transferring to. So we're hoping for interoperability, that’s what we'd like to see. We know that the companies that are running this have airports signed up already. They're just waiting for that green light from TSA.
Chairman Stevens: Mr. May, I think as everyone realizes, this Committee has jurisdiction over the airline system, as well as the TSA system. But we are very worried about the cost of these layered systems to the commercial aviation system, passenger system, because they're already in trouble with increased fuel costs and increased costs all over the system. Do you have any estimate on how much the industry itself has spent on security since 9/11? I mean, talk about what the companies have paid for CAPPS I, CAPPS II, Secure Flight, and now planning the registered system.
Mr. May: Senator, I don't have any hard and fast estimates in the aggregate since 9/11, but I think it's fair to say that we've gone from spending somewhere in the range of $2.5 to $3 billion a year in imputed costs as a result of those security measures that we are required to perform because TSA won't, i.e., that ticket checker that you see when you stand in line is paid for by the airlines, not by TSA. When there is catering security, cargo security it is paid for by the airlines, not by TSA. So we've gone from roughly $3 billion a year at the outset of what we were paying in a total of taxes, fees and imputed costs to now something well over $4 billion. And if the Administration's proposals were to be adopted on the ASIF fee and the segment tax, you'd add another $1.4 or $1.5 billion to that. So if you multiply that out times the number of years, it's double-digit billions of dollars that this industry has paid for what we fundamentally believe is a function of national security.
Chairman Stevens: You have any more questions, Senator? We thank you all for coming. We thank the first panel, too. I do believe Mr. Connors has a point, and that is that we have an ongoing review of the system. So I would like to assure you that, sometime by the end of May, we'll be asking for additional information to see what, if anything, we might have to do to suggest a change in the law or to find a way to deal with the complications of this security system. The airline passengers are the only ones that are paying for their security today. And the airline companies are the only ones that are really paying totally for the security. And I think that security is a system – the security system across all modes of transportation needs to have review. We'll talk about that later, too. But we do appreciate what you're doing. I think, Mr. Hawley, we're pleased with the way you're moving forward and trying to get this program really to the point where it has greater support from the public. But all of us in Congress I think get as much comment about this subject of the delays in air transportation and the impacts of the security program than any other subject we deal with. So we hope to be back and have, if not a formal hearing, at least a discussion with the participants sometime by late May to see what's happened and what, if anything, we can do to ensure that this program will mature and get to the point where it has really the support it needs from the traveling public.
Well, we thank you very much.
Daniel K. InouyeSenator
The TSA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Secure Flight, Registered Traveler, and other airline passenger pre-screening programs, yet we have few tangible improvements in security to show for this investment.
With respect to Secure Flight, Congress outlined specific privacy, security, and spending requirements for the agency to meet before moving forward with the program. Despite the TSA’s assurances that it would be operational within a year, Secure Flight has yet to be implemented.
The Registered Traveler program has experienced similar setbacks. The nation’s air carriers have begun to call into question the necessity of the program. Others have raised concerns about the impact of the program on the existing airport screening system and have questioned whether or not the program will produce an equitable and more secure system.
To date, no one at the TSA has taken responsibility for this mismanagement, and the lapses have squandered scarce public resources and delayed important security improvements.
These programs make sense in theory, and we know the related technology is available. But will the traveling public ever realize the stated benefits? We need a far more candid and honest assessment than we have received thus far.
I look forward to hearing from Mr. Hawley about his next course of action.
Witness Panel 1
Ms. Cathleen A. BerrickDirector, Homeland Security and JusticeU.S. Government Accountability Office
Witness Panel 2
Chip BarclayPresidentAmerican Association of Airport Executives
Mr. Tim SparapaniLegislative Counsel for Privacy RightsAmerican Civil Liberties Union
Mr. Bill ConnorsExecutive Director and CEONational Business Travel Association