Thune, Nelson, Blunt and Cantwell Introduce Bill to Reform TSA Aviation Security

September 27, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, today introduced S. 1872, the TSA Modernization Act. The legislative proposal includes reforms of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) organizational structure, provisions to advance development and acquisition of new security technologies, improvements of public area security, and pathways to mitigate frustrating security delays. In addition, S. 1872 would authorize funding at TSA for three years, $7.81 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2018, $7.85 billion in FY 2019, and $7.89 billion in FY 2020, while reauthorizing TSA aviation security policies and programs. The total budget authority for TSA in FY 2017 was $7.77 billion.

“This legislation responds to the challenges of aviation security, now and over the horizon, by creating more stability in the agency’s leadership and putting security assets in place that protect travelers and minimize delays,” said Thune. “TSA must learn from disappointing security testing results, terrorist attacks abroad, and traveler frustration to rise to the occasion, embrace necessary changes, and meet its critically important mission of keeping travelers safe and secure.”

“When it comes to matters that affect the security of traveling public, partisanship is checked at the door,” said Nelson. “This bill reflects that spirit of cooperation and ensures TSA has the direction, leadership, and tools it needs to address key aviation security challenges.”

“The TSA has no margin for error when it comes to the critical work they do to keep travelers safe,” Blunt said. “The TSA Modernization Act will strengthen leadership at the agency, improve technology, and provide additional tools to enhance airport security and increase efficiency in the screening process. I urge the committee to support this legislation, and help ensure that the millions of people who travel each day arrive safely and on time.”

“Explosives sniffing canines are our best defense when it comes to airport security. Giving communities and airports the resources needed to deploy additional well-trained canines is critical to effective and efficient airport security,” said Cantwell. “This legislation provides airports and the TSA the ability to add canine teams, which will significantly increase the number of teams available at busy airports like SeaTac.”

Highlights of the TSA Modernization Act:

-  Five-year administrator term – Establishes a five-year term for the TSA Administrator to help maintain leadership stability at TSA and bridge administration transitions (similar to the current FAA administrator).

-  Addressing shortages in trained K-9s– Requires TSA to develop certification standards that allow for use of third party explosive detection dogs by TSA and aviation stakeholders to increase assistance in the screening of passengers, property, and air cargo.

-  Expanding PreCheck – Requires TSA to establish multiple private sector partnerships to promote and facilitate passenger enrollment in the TSA PreCheck program, allowing more travelers are vetted in advance and receive expedited screening.

-  Directs TSA to meet the following targets for expanding PreCheck enrollment from its current five million enrollees: FY 2018 – seven million, FY 2019 – 10 million, FY 2020 – 15 million.

-  Wait times in real-time – Requires TSA to make information on wait times at each airport security checkpoint available to the public online and in airport terminals to inform and improve the travel experience for aviation passengers.

-  Deploying new security technology– Instructs TSA to authorize third party testing and evaluation of security screening equipment and to harmonize and recognize international testing and evaluation in order to enable faster deployment of the latest and most effective screening technologies.

Click here for the full text of S. 1872, the TSA Modernization Act.