U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing entitled, “Keeping Our Skies Secure: Oversight of the Transportation Security Administration,” at approximately 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. The exact start time is contingent on the conclusion of an earlier and separate Commerce Committee business meeting that will be open to the public in the same hearing room. As part of the Committee’s oversight responsibilities, this hearing will examine the progress made by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in its efforts to advance aviation security and the challenges that remain.
“As the front line of our nation’s transportation security, TSA has to learn from mistakes and shortcomings to keep us safe,” said Thune. “This hearing will offer Senators the opportunity to ask the administrator questions about the deployment of new screening technologies, improved security measures, and other
- The Honorable David P. Pekoske, Administrator, Transportation Security Administration
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
This hearing will take place in Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 106. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Over two years ago, the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, or FESSA (FESS-uh), was enacted into law. It included multiple provisions from my Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act designed to reform and refocus TSA’s efforts. Two years after enactment, however, some important mandates contained in FESSA remain outstanding, including updated regulations to enhance airport and airline employee access controls. I look forward to hearing an update on implementation of these measures.
As threats to aviation continually evolve, we must ensure that TSA is able to test, procure, and deploy new technologies to counter those threats. Recent advancements in computed tomography, biometrics, and credential authentication technologies empower TSA to enhance its layers of security and better respond to potential vulnerabilities.
Nevertheless, TSA has had difficulty testing and deploying these technologies to airports in a timely manner, as well as adequately communicating and adhering to its long-term technology investment plan, which makes it challenging for security technology manufacturers to do their part in supporting the agency’s needs. TSA must provide certainty in its equipment procurement plans to enable the consistent, rapid deployment of advanced screening technologies.
This past Labor Day weekend, an estimated 16.5 million passengers were predicted to travel through our nation’s airports, which is a new record for that particular holiday travel period. With so many passengers requiring screening at airport checkpoints, we are reminded of the importance of the PreCheck Program to pre-vet and expedite screening for low-risk travelers so that public airport areas are less vulnerable and TSA can focus on screening passengers who are higher risk.
Unfortunately, TSA has not significantly increased its PreCheck enrollment numbers in recent years, and has not yet offered expanded services and options for travelers to make enrollment easier as required under FESSA.
On the whole, however, TSA continues to lead the world in creating a secure global aviation environment. In the last year, TSA has issued security directives for airports with commercial flights to the United States aimed at countering threats related to personal electronic devices, powders, and air cargo.
Since these security directives were announced, many countries have successfully implemented enhanced screening protocols, and some countries including the United Kingdom, have followed the TSA’s lead with similar directives, raising the global standard for aviation security and ensuring safer international travel.
Before concluding my remarks I want to note the words of a man who led this Committee for many years. In April 2000, 18 months before the attacks of 9/11, he said the following in prepared remarks for an aviation security hearing:
“I am certainly aware that aviation security is a complex and difficult undertaking, and any system involving humans is going to have flaws. … Every effort must be made to increase awareness and performance. You can be sure that Osama bin Laden and others like him will continue to target Americans and American interests.”
These words by then-Chairman John McCain not only demonstrated remarkable foresight, but still hold true in many ways even though the names of those who want to do us harm have changed. It is also a reminder of the legacy and impact of our friend and colleague, who as Chairmen helped craft legislation establishing the TSA and stabilizing the airline industry in the wake of the horrific events of 9/11.
As we near the 17th anniversary of those attacks, we are soberly reminded once again of how important the TSA’s work is, and of all your agency does to keep the travelling public secure.
With that, I reiterate my thanks to the Administrator for being here and turn to Ranking Member Nelson for his opening statement.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. And Administrator Pekoske, thank you for joining us today.
This committee has been busy with the FAA reauthorization bill, to which we hope to attach TSA-related legislation that we discussed last year. The clock is ticking, but the chairman and I hope we can get these things done soon.
Both the FAA and TSA bills are examples of the Commerce Committee’s long tradition of bipartisan collaboration.
As you know, the TSA Modernization Act this committee passed last October focused on improving security at airports by authorizing an increase in the Law Enforcement Officer Reimbursement program, expanding the use of explosive detection canine teams and expediting the deployment of security screening equipment.
We hope that this bill will help the TSA grow its PreCheck program, which has been successful but continues to struggle with enrollment. I look forward to updates you can provide on any of these issues.
I also hope that we can shine some light on the TSA’s “Quiet Skies” program, which has been in the news recently. Along with Senator McCaskill, I sent you a letter last week asking for clarification about this program. It’s important for us to know the program’s details and to be able to share them with the flying public.
Finally, I believe it is imperative that we have a discussion on the ways that the TSA is responding to the emerging threat of 3D-printed guns—undetectable and untraceable firearms.
As we have discussed over the phone, I am concerned about the danger that these weapons pose to our safety wherever we use metal detectors and other similar devices to keep Americans safe—including in airports and on airplanes. I would like to hear how the TSA is addressing this threat.
Again, thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable David P. PekoskeAdministratorTransportation Security Administration