Cantwell Presses TSA on Sea-Tac Staffing, Security Measures

September 11, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, pressed Patricia Cogswell, the Acting Deputy Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), on staffing levels and security measures at Sea-Tac Airport.

“As one of the fastest growing airports, if not the fastest growing airport in the nation, the challenges of moving people and making sure that we’re all secure is a very, very important daily task,” Senator Cantwell said.

In her questions for Acting Deputy Administrator Cogswell, Cantwell asked about ongoing efforts to train additional teams to handle the growth in passenger traffic at Sea-Tac.

“I mentioned Sea-Tac and its rapid growth – I think we’re at 135,000 people a day and almost 50 million a year. I noticed that the site for Sea-Tac says it was built in 1949 to accommodate a million people, so the fact that we’re accommodating annually 50 million people shows the stress and strain on the system,” Senator Cantwell said.

“These security measures are of the utmost importance to us in continuing to do a good job at the security layer, as well as moving in a cost-effective fashion,” Cantwell continued. “I wanted to ask you about the new rules for developing third party canine units for explosive detection. When will we see those, and what other initiatives are we pursuing to have fully-trained teams available for deployment?”

Cogswell answered that TSA is continuing its work to address passenger and cargo screening needs.

“We expect to see continued growth and volume in that space; we’ve had a lot of interest in it,” Cogswell said. “In addition to the aspect around the third-party canine, we are also looking at the next round, next review, next enhancement, of technology that could be available for use in screening of cargo.”

“So, it’s safe to say that Sea-Tac will be seeing aggressive use of canines and that TSA will be continuing its own efforts as well as whatever Sea-Tac does on its own,” Cantwell concluded.

Senator Cantwell has long been a leader on aviation security issues in Congress. She authored legislation to help bring more bomb-sniffing dogs, which improve security and decrease passenger wait times, to airports across the country. Cantwell has also worked with TSA to deploy new dogs to Sea-Tac Airport to improve security checkpoint wait times at the airport. She has also worked with her colleagues to oppose cuts proposed by the Trump administration for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, a critical mass transit security program.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement is available HERE, and audio is available HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A is available HERE, and audio is available HERE.