Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Roger Wicker (R-MS), the chair of the committee, sent a letter to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expressing concern about the agency’s plan to divert personnel and resources to the southern border.
According to recent reports, the TSA is considering deploying as many as 400 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) – personnel who perform passenger screening at airports – from around the country to assist U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the southern border. TSA is also planning to deploy 175 Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) from Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams and might repurpose $232 million in TSA funding, some of which would be used to buy new security screening equipment.
“While we acknowledge the request for additional resources from the Department of Homeland Security, we have concerns about the potential impact on executing TSA’s mission to ‘protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce,’” Cantwell and Wicker wrote. “Deployment of FAMs would significantly diminish operational capacity, and diversion of funds may slow deployment of new computed tomography (CT) screening machines.”
In addition to operational and security concerns, the senators also wrote that these changes could impact passenger wait times at airport screening checkpoints at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and others throughout the country.
“In addition, the redeployment of hundreds of TSOs at the start of the summer travel season could increase wait times for travelers at airports across the country through the summer and beyond,” the senators wrote.
In 2018, Sea-Tac was ranked as the eighth-busiest airport in the country, serving more than 49 million passengers. Recent wait times at the airport’s security checkpoints have lasted as long as 70 minutes on some days, with lines stretching all the way into the parking garage.
The full text of the letter can be found HERE.