The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released some very positive numbers recently. During the hectic summer travel season and after a spring filled with hours-long waits for passengers at security screening checkpoints, TSA released the following assessment of the summer season.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, 98% of travelers waited thirty minutes or less at TSA checkpoints, and 92% of travelers waited fifteen minutes or less, according to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. At the seven busiest airports in the country, the average wait time was less than ten minutes.
The hiring of more TSA agents, assistance of airline staff for non-protective duties, and the testing and implementation of new technology, thanks in large part to congressional funding, made these extremely positive results possible.
VIPR TEAMS HOPE TO EXPAND
Most of us know TSA as the men and women in blue shirts, manning x-ray equipment and checking our passports. But there is also a highly trained arm, with legal authority to enforce law in airports and transportation hubs, and TSA wants to nearly double the number of these elite federal officers.
Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams are authorized to assist local law enforcement officials and run their own anti-terrorism activities as they relate to our modes of transportation.
After several terrorist attacks in Europe, especially in Brussels, TSA wants to expand the number of VIPR teams to add renewed, targeted, and ultra-responsive security to physical areas passengers traverse before reaching the screening checkpoints. This is where a portion of the Brussels attack played out.
The doubling of VIPR teams was approved in April, but has yet to receive the necessary funding from Congress.
TSA’S MAMMOTH TESTING FACILITY
Have you ever wondered where TSA agents and officials determine what type of technology they will use to screen you and your belongings, or how agents learn to recognize the presence of explosives in a travel bottle of shampoo? It all happens in a 128,000 square foot, former post office at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC.
The TSA Systems Integration Facility (TSIF) features a September 11, 2001 memorial, a museum of screening tools, and the real bread and butter of the building — an explosives testing lab and full scale “bag room” with conveyor belts, x-ray machines, and RFID readers. It’s here that the new x-ray system employed at Atlanta’s airport was tested, which now features larger bins and a floor level, bin-returning conveyor belt.
CONGRESSMAN WANTS FREE PRE-CHECK FOR VETERANS
Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell of New Jersey has requested, in writing, that the $85 enrollment fee for TSA’s Pre-Check program be waived for veterans of the United States Armed Forces. In a letter to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, Congressman Pascrell argued that veterans have already undergone security clearances and subsequent follow-ups, which would make the Pre-Check enrollment process much simpler and less time consuming, thereby eliminating the need to charge these applicants the $85 fee, which is collected to cover the administrative costs of conducting background checks.