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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today delivered the following remarks during the nomination hearing for Admiral David P. Pekoske, who was nominated for a new five-year term as Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA):
Remarks as delivered:
Thank you, Senator Klobuchar. I want to join you in welcoming Admiral Pekoske back to this committee. We appreciate his continued willingness to serve.
The 9/11 attacks led to the creation of the Transportation Security Administration and its placement within the Department of Homeland Security. I was a member of the House of Representatives twenty and one-half years ago when we did this. TSA is charged with protecting the nation’s transportation systems while also ensuring the free movement of people and commerce.
TSA’s nearly 60,000 employees play a critical role in securing our nation’s transportation modes, including commercial aviation, general aviation, and mass transit systems, freight rail, passenger rail, highways, pipelines, and ports. The 43,000-plus Transportation Security Officers who screen air travelers every day are certainly among the most visible part of the TSA to the public. But there are many others in the TSA workforce, including Transportation Security Inspectors, Federal Air Marshals, and Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams. So this committee greatly appreciates the dedication shown by you, Admiral Pekoske, and the vast majority of TSA’s frontline personnel, who continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each day, TSA screens more than two million passengers and 1.4 million checked items for explosives and other dangerous items. Growth in air travel is expected to continue and will either approach or exceed pre-pandemic volumes in the coming months.
TSA also works closely with owners and operators to protect the variety of surface transportation systems that connect our cities, manufacturers, and our retailers. These include more than four million miles of roadway, nearly 140,000 miles of railroad track, over 470 tunnels, and more than 2.8 million miles of pipeline – all of which are critical to our economy. TSA conducts roughly 8,000 surface inspections annually as part of a risk-based approach for securing large and complex transportation systems and our nation’s critical infrastructure.
However, since its inception, TSA has been subject to significant criticism from the Government Accountability Office, the DHS Office of Inspector General, and the regulated communities. To meet these challenges, last fall, at the 20th anniversary of this agency, I introduced the Transportation Security Administration 20th Anniversary Review Act. This act would require an independent review to evaluate the TSA’s successes and failures – something that has never been done since the agency’s creation, and I hope Admiral Pekoske will agree that this is necessary. I also hope the Administrator will work with me on yet another bill, my TSA Security Threat Assessment Application Modernization Act, which would streamline the enrollment process for key security credentials used in freight transportation.
I appreciate Admiral Pekoske’s willingness to continue serving the American people, and I appreciate his team that Senator Klobuchar mentioned. I look forward to working with the Administrator to ensure that TSA implements the best possible security for our transportation systems without unduly interfering with travel, commerce, and civil liberties. Thank you Madame Chair.