Rep. John Katko (R-NY) has introduced a bill ahead of the busy Memorial Day travel weekend that aims to help cut down on the bottlenecks at Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints at the nation’s airports.
The Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act of 2016 (H.R. 5338) would direct the TSA administrator to determine the necessary staffing positions at airports to know how to best utilize TSA employees, reassign TSA personnel to emphasize handling security checkpoints and passenger screening, and employ greater use of dogs in screening passengers. Any staffing reassignments would be done per the determinations made in the TSA administrator’s staffing allocation model directed by the legislation.
The bill would also direct the TSA to make sure its employees were not spending time on tasks not directly related to screening, such as restocking bins or giving instructions to passengers waiting in line.
TSA head Peter Neffenger has already said that some of the agency’s employees are being moved to help staff the busiest airports during peak times. The changes were announced largely in response to delays in Chicago that left 450 passengers stranded overnight because the security lines were so long they caused the passengers to miss their flights.
Neffenger told a House committee that a combination of factors contributed to the added waiting time to pass through security screening: more people are flying this year, and fewer people than expected have applied for the PreCheck program.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union that represents TSA, has been calling on the agency to hire more screeners to address the long security lines, 6,000 new employees to be exact. AFGE says this would solve the problem.
“The current crisis was both foreseeable and preventable,” said AFGE’s national president, J. David Cox, Sr. “It’s time for Congress to stop the waiting games and give TSA the resources it needs to meet growing demands at our nation’s airports.”
The new bill makes no references to hiring new employees, only to reassigning current ones, so it’s a fairly safe bet that, as written, this legislation will not be met with full approval from AFGE.
Neffenger also said recently that TSA plans to hire 768 new screeners by mid June, far short of the number AFGE wants to see.
Others have said the solution to solving the problems with TSA is even simpler: just privatize the agency and get it out of the security screening business altogether. One of the latest lawmakers to make the case for privatization is Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA).
Speaking on the legislation, Congressman Katko said, “This bipartisan bill provides needed transparency, accountability, and reform to the front lines of airport passenger screening and, upon enactment, will immediately help alleviate the crushing wait times being experienced by the traveling public across the country. I commend the positive steps being taken by Administrator Neffenger to respond to this crisis and by our airport and airline stakeholders who have responded in collaborative fashion as we have worked to develop sensible policy solutions to this problem.”