With viral videos of terminal-stretching waits and websites devoted to passengers airing their grievances popping up on the web, long TSA security lines are, unfortunately, the hot travel topic of the moment. But there's finally some good news. The House of Representatives unanimously passed the "Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act" on Tuesday.
The bill, which was created by U.S. Representative John Katko, would allow the TSA to add behavior detection officers to help screeners during busy travel times. The legislation gives more authority to federal security directors at each airport to make necessary staffing decisions.
The TSA union requested in May that Congress pass emergency legislation to fund the hiring of 6,000 full-time screeners. “Congress has starved TSA of the resources it needs to meet growing demands at our nation’s airports,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. wrote in a letter sent last month to House and Senate leaders.
TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger blamed the long lines on the fact that the agency has yet to replace all of the 4,644 employees who were lost in 2014 due to budgetary measures. “When I came into this organization last year, I found an organization with 5,800 fewer screeners, and it had fewer front-line officers than it had four years previously,” he said Thursday. “And that was in the face of significantly higher traffic volume.”
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Along with hiring an additional of 768 screening agents, the department will increase the use of overtime and deploy more bomb-sniffing dogs to help speed up the security process.
“We want to keep passengers moving, but we want to keep passengers safe,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a news conference at Reagan National Airport. He added that the TSA is turning to airlines for help in performing some non-security TSA tasks as well.
Airports and airlines have also been complaining about the long waits and under staffing. Some have even threatened to bring in private security firms: In April Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport said they were considering replacing TSA personnel with private security contractors.