U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, will convene a hearing on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, at 2:30 p.m. entitled, “TSA Oversight and Examination of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request.” At the hearing, Acting Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Melvin Carraway will testify about the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 and address oversight questions related to the TSA Pre-Check program, a proposed increase in passenger security fees, the agency’s response to reported misconduct of federal air marshals, and efforts to keep travelers safe amid growing terrorist threats.
Acting Administrator Carraway assumed his position in January 2015 following the retirement of Administrator John Pistole. Carraway has served as the Deputy TSA Administrator since July 2014. Administrator Pistole announced his plans to step down on October 16, 2014. A recent bipartisan letter from Senate Commerce Committee leaders urged President Obama to prioritize the formal nomination of a permanent TSA Administrator in this time of evolving terror threats.
• Mr. Melvin Carraway, Acting Administrator, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee hearing entitled “TSA Oversight and Examination of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request”
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements and a live video of the hearing will be available here.
For reporters interested in reserving a seat, please contact the press gallery:
• Periodical Press Gallery – 202-224-0265
• Radio/Television Gallery – 202-224-6421
• Press Photographers Gallery – 202-224-6548
• Daily Press Gallery – 202-224-0241
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for the webcast hearing, should contact Stephanie Gamache at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Chair Kelly Ayotte
"Good afternoon and welcome. As you may know, today marks my first Aviation subcommittee hearing serving as Chair. Today’s hearing represents the first of what we anticipate to be an active spring schedule. The subcommittee will soon begin a series of hearings in preparation for this year’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization effort, as the agency’s authorization expires in September of this year.
"At a time when our nation faces evolving security threats—often focused on the airline industry and its partners—the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) role is more important than ever. To protect the traveling public and our transportation systems, we need strong leadership and a coherent strategy from TSA to ensure our nation is pursuing the best security posture.
"To that end, in January, I joined several of my colleagues on the Commerce Committee—including Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson, Ranking Member Cantwell, and Chairman Fischer—in writing to the president asking him to prioritize the formal nomination of a TSA Administrator, as former Administrator John Pistole announced his intention to retire in October 2014.
"Which brings me to today’s witness.
"I want to welcome to the subcommittee Mr. Melvin Carraway, who serves as Deputy Administrator and current Acting Administrator at TSA. Although Mr. Carraway has a long history of service in various capacities at TSA, today’s hearing is the first time he will testify before a congressional committee.
"Thank you for being here today, Mr. Carraway, and thank you for your service. I look forward to hearing from you on many important issues facing TSA and the safety of the traveling public. I also look forward to working closely with you moving forward to address these issues. I hope you will view this subcommittee as a partner in your work.
"At today’s hearing, I look forward to hearing your views on a number of issues facing our nation’s security situation and TSA’s operations. And I know my colleagues have strong interest in your comments as well. In short, we want to hear your vision for the agency and how the budget request for fiscal year 2016 supports TSA’s mission. Additionally, I hope to hear how you are addressing a number of issues that have recently garnered media attention, including Federal Air Marshals’ misconduct and access control failings.
"As you know, TSA has adopted an intelligence-driven risk-based security (RBS) approach, which is designed to allow the agency to deploy resources in a more focused and efficient manner, concentrating on unknown and high risk travelers. This approach simultaneously helps alleviate burdensome procedures for low-risk passengers.
"One tool TSA uses in its risk-based security strategy is TSA PreCheck, which allows for expedited security checks for pre-approved, low-risk travelers.
"TSA recently announced its intent to expand enrollment options for applications for PreCheck. We must ensure this effort does not diminish the safety and security of airline passengers.
"Anyone who travels through our nation’s airports is very well aware that TSA relies heavily on technology in order to screen passengers and carry out its mission effectively. Cost-effective acquisition policies and procedures are critical to ensuring TSA is able to deploy the best technology to effectively and efficiently screen passengers and baggage. Last Congress, I introduced legislation to improve transparency and accountability in technology acquisition spending and planning by TSA.
"The legislation was passed out of the Commerce Committee and ultimately signed into law in December. Under the law, TSA is required to develop, update, and publish biennially a strategic five-year technology investment plan; analyze whether an acquisition is justified before acquiring any security-related technology; establish and report baseline performance requirements before acquiring any security-related technology; utilize any existing equipment in inventory before procuring additional units; and report to Congress on the feasibility of tracking TSA security technologies through automated information and data capture technologies.
"Understanding that this law is still being implemented, I look forward to hearing an update on TSA’s acquisition reform efforts.
"Finally, the Federal Air Marshals Service (FAMS) is responsible for detecting, deterring, and disrupting criminal and terrorist acts against air carriers, passengers, airports, and crews. As an additional line of defense against threats while flights are in the air, FAMS should be promoting confidence in our nation’s civil aviation system. Yet recent news stories have dogged the service, including media reports of abuse of authority with regard to improper scheduling for inappropriate personal reasons. This is extremely troubling.
"Recent media accounts have also exposed security gaps in the use of Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge. While these instances may largely be attributed to employee misconduct or misuse of the credential and not terrorist activity, we must make sure that the proper mechanisms and checks are in place to prevent abuses from occurring. The Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) is conducting a review of access control measures, and I look forward to reviewing their findings and recommendations.
"Also disturbing is the exposure of a gun-smuggling operation where an airline employee was able to sneak firearms through the secure areas of an airport and into the cabins of commercial airliners with the help of a co-conspirator. This series of security and procedural breaches must be investigated exhaustively, and it should also highlight the need for ongoing assessments of security weaknesses.
"TSA is very often the face of security on the home front. Mr. Carraway, you have a tough job overseeing the agency with an ever-evolving threat landscape. We must all continue to work to ensure that TSA is able to adapt to—as well as stay ahead of—those threats.
"I’d like to now turn it over to Ranking Member Cantwell. She and I have worked together on this subcommittee for 4 years, and I look forward to continuing our partnership to address important aviation issues."
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Melvin CarrawayActing AdministratorTransportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security