TSA Officials: Recapturing Security Fees Would Help Boost Tech Adoption – MeriTalk

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials told lawmakers this week that redirecting passenger security fees to help pay for critical security investments — such as further technology improvements at TSA airport checkpoints — would help greatly to accelerate the agency’s broader technology modernization efforts.

TSA in 2018 kicked off a significant reorganization effort aimed at enhancing its efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness to emerging threats. As part of that plan, TSA is developing and deploying cutting-edge technologies at airport security checkpoints that allow TSA officers to screen all passengers in a time-efficient and minimally invasive manner.

The agency – which is part of the Department of Homeland Security – has estimated that the public can expect to see the most technologically up-to-date systems in place by the 2040s.

But Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., who chairs the House Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security, questioned the efficacy of that long timeline during a subcommittee hearing on March 12.

“TSA’s current projections show a pessimistic outlook for when the entire flying American public can expect to have access to the most technologically up-to-date systems,” the congressman said.

“The pace right now says that you’re going to be implementing some new technologies by the 2040s, [but] by the 2040s that new technology is a new technology anymore,” he said.

Julie Scanlon, Executive Assistant Administrator for Enterprise Support at TSA, told lawmakers that the agency has “the mechanisms in place, and if we had the appropriate funding, we could get all of our equipment deployed between now and 2029.”

This is where using passenger security fees could help.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress enacted the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) which — in addition to establishing TSA — created a passenger security fee to be included in each airline ticket purchase to help pay for the costs of aviation security.

However, the security fees have not kept pace with inflation and today are insufficient to fund most of TSA’s activities, including the agency’s technology modernization efforts. In addition to inflation, Congress has diverted the security fees to help pay down the national dept.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 diverted approximately one-third of Passenger Security Fee collections to the general treasury to offset unrelated government spending, and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 extended the diversion of funds through fiscal year (FY) 2027. Currently, $6.48 billion is expected to be diverted from aviation security through FY 2027 unless the current laws are changed.

“We have to fix this and stand together to try and take that entire security fee and return it to the agency that’s supposed to be using it, return it for the purpose that Americans believe they are paying for,” Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., said during the hearing.

Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., echoed the Louisiana congressman’s sentiments. “Congress must examine passenger security fees and rightfully put those funds where we are telling Americans they should go.”

He asked the four hearing witnesses from TSA if that action by Congress would accelerate TSA’s modernization effort and help the agency “meet the moment” in leveraging emerging tech — and the witnesses unanimously agreed that it would.

In addition to Scanlon TSA officials testifying at the hearing included: Stacy Fitzmaurice, Executive Assistant Administrator, Operations Support; Brian Belcher, Executive Assistant Administrator, Director for the Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service; and Steve Lorincz, Deputy Executive Assistant Administrator, Security Operations.


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