Hoeven Pushes for TSA Improvements

Conducts Hearing on TSA's Steps to Improve Security and Efficiency

WASHINGTON – As head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Committee, Senator John Hoeven this week chaired an appropriations hearing on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) budget and steps the agency is taking to improve safety and remedy checkpoint security issues uncovered last June in an inspector general’s report. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, a retired admiral and vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard who was confirmed to the post following the IG’s report, testified at the hearing.

“As an agency that interacts with nearly two million people every day, TSA is undoubtedly the face of the Department of Homeland Security,” Hoeven said. “The TSA’s interactions with the public must be professional and effective. Events around the world have made it clear that commercial airline travel is a target for terrorists, so TSA needs to be vigilant in ensuring that people can travel safely and efficiently.”

Hoeven pressed the Administrator for an update on progress TSA is making to ensure that people, processes and technology are working together to enhance safety and convenience. That includes:

  • Training:  All TSA screeners underwent “back to basics” training.  In addition, TSA has established an Academy where they are now conducting centralized training for new screeners.
  • Processes:  TSA streamlined and focused their Standard Operating Procedures so alarms are resolved effectively to meet security needs.
  • Technology: Hoeven pressed for an update on technology capabilities.  Neffenger said that screeners are now trained on how to get the best performance from current equipment. Further, TSA is working with equipment vendors to improve current systems while also revamping the test and evaluation process for new systems.
  • Canine Teams: TSA is currently training more canine teams to operate in both the passenger and cargo environments. Canines are a highly effective asset, and TSA plans to use them even more extensively.
  • Federal Air Marshals: TSA is creating a staffing standard for Federal Air Marshals and working to hire Marshals to keep up with attrition recognizing the aging workforce.
  • Metrics: Neffenger said he has developed more robust metrics to measure both readiness and performance of the workforce and TSA’s technology with a renewed focus on security and safety instead of throughput.
  • Insider Threats: The agency is reassessing the security threat posed by airport insiders and developing best practices for airports to ensure security. The administrator said he is working to ensure that airports know who holds security badges and what measures are in place to ensure they are not a threat.  

Today’s hearing follows a September oversight hearing that Hoeven convened to make sure concrete steps were being taken to remedy security issues identified in the IG report. The IG’s report is classified; however, information was leaked to the press that raised serious concerns for committee members and the public. The senator called on the administrator to develop metrics to measure the agency’s progress and Neffenger pledged to establish standards for the security system and to test those standards.