U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Protecting the Nation’s Transportation Systems: Oversight of the Transportation Security Administration,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 11, 2019. This hearing will examine issues related to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and provide oversight on TSA’s efforts to enhance transportation security.
- Ms. Patricia Cogswell, Acting Deputy Administrator, Transportation Security Administration
*Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
This hearing will take place in the Dirksen Senate Office Building G50. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman Roger Wicker
This morning we reflect on a somber day in American history. It was exactly 18 years ago that terrorists turned civilian aircraft into weapons killing nearly 3,000 Americans and injuring thousands more. Today, we honor the memories of those who perished and those first responders who ran into harm’s way to help their fellow citizens.
The tragedy of 9/11 led to the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) within the new Department of Homeland Security. TSA is charged with protecting our nation’s transportation systems from attacks and ensuring freedom of movement of people and commerce.
I am pleased that Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell is here to update the committee on TSA’s progress toward achieving these goals.
America’s air, land, and marine transportation systems are designed for accessibility and efficiency. The enduring challenge remains how to deter and respond to terrorist attacks without unduly burdening travel, the economy, and civil liberties.
TSA’s workforce also includes Transportation Security Inspectors, Federal Air Marshals, and Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams among other security professionals.
Congress has worked to support this dedicated workforce by passing the first-ever TSA reauthorization bill – the TSA Modernization Act – in last year’s FAA Reauthorization legislation. The Modernization Act included provisions to:
- Streamline acquisition;
- Expand the PreCheck program;
- Support the Screening Partnership Program;
- Mandate more rigorous background checks of airport workers,
- Strengthen airport access controls; and
- Enhance security in public areas of airports.
Thus far, TSA has done an admiral job of responding to the myriad of directives and reporting requirements of the bill. However, I remain concerned about the pace of TSA’s deployment of new screening technology, the rate of PreCheck expansion, the seeming lack of urgency for implementing Screening Partnership Program reforms, and the absence of a comprehensive plan to integrate the Registered Traveler program with Credential Authentication Technology systems. I hope that our witness today will address the agency’s progress toward implementing the Modernization Act.
In addition to this act implementation, the committee will also exercise oversight on reforms to existing security programs, notably the Passenger Screening teams. In February, Administrator Pekoske briefed the committee on disturbing testing results from the IG and promised to revamp canine training. TSA has also committed to making the Federal Air Marshals program more intelligence-based.
Improving today’s frontline security programs is important, but TSA must adapt to changing threats and technologies. The committee is interested in emerging technology, including biometrics – perhaps we will hear about that today. We understand that TSA has a Biometrics Roadmap, but we certainly need to review this in light of concerns involving privacy, data protection, and civil liberties.
So, I look forward to a robust discussion today on the vital role that TSA plays.
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell
Senator Maria Cantwell
Opening Statement at Commerce Committee, Science, & Transportation Hearing on Oversight of the Transportation Security Administration
Witness: Patricia Cogswell, Acting Deputy Administrator, Transportation Security Administration
September 11, 2019
CANTWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me also welcome Acting Deputy Administrator Cogswell for joining us this morning. And thank you for all the work that TSA does in keeping us safe every day.
On this somber date, we remember the tragic and devastating events of 18 years ago. An adversary motivated by nothing short of an evil attack on our nation and the horrifying grief and loss of life was unimaginable. Establishing the Transportation Security Administration was among several steps that Congress took to ensure the attack would never be repeated. In the last Congress, this committee worked hard to complete the work on the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, also including the first comprehensive reauthorization of TSA since the agency was created shortly after the September 11 attacks. Our focus today is on oversight of the agency as it continues its critical mission and seeks to implement the mandates included in last year’s TSA authorization, formerly known as the TSA Modernization Act.
As you know, last year’s TSA Modernization Act focused on improving transportation security by addressing such issues as training and deployment of canines for screening of passengers and cargo, reinforcing efforts the intercept insider threats, and expediting testing and deployment of new screening technologies in various organizations to ensure the effective leadership at the agency. I also want to note here I appreciate the good work of the Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Richland, Washington, who, at airports with the Millimeter Wave Scan, have worked through security and developing, we call it the TSA salute, but nonetheless, this overhead has given us quite the security layer, and yesterday had the chance to talk with Acting Director Cogswell about the next generation of technology we will be deploying at airports. But both at our airports with individual travelers and our cargo containers, the Pacific Northwest Laboratory continues to stay ahead on cutting-edge technology, and we appreciate the work of our R&D labs in helping us maintain security.
I also appreciate your candor regarding a recent diversion of TSA resources to the southern border. I spoke to you about a letter that was sent by my colleague Senator Wicker and I about the diversion of those resources. My guess is we’ll have a chance to ask you in this morning’s hearing about that. Reports indicated at the time that there could be an additional FAMs deployed, with an ultimate goal of sending 175 to support the CBP operations, so I look forward to asking you about those questions this morning.
So, as my colleague said, we’re here to review what we can do to make sure that the TSA remains a strong and viable force. I remain very interested in the canine units’ success and the further deployment of that as one of the fastest growing airports, if not the fastest growing airport in the nation, Sea-Tac, the challenges of moving people and making sure that we’re all secure is a very very important daily task. So thank you for being here to address these issues.
Witness Panel 1
Ms. Patricia CogswellActing Deputy AdministratorTransportation Security Administration