WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — The head of the Transportation Security Administration said the agency will add 768 new screeners by mid-June to deal with growing airport security lines.
Peter Neffenger told a House committee that TSA officers are being moved to staff checkpoints at the busiest airports at the busiest times, and the agency is launching an incident command center that includes officials from major airlines and industry associations.
He said the center will track daily screening operations and shift officers, canine units and other resources to shorten lines.
Neffenger said the agency expects to screen 740 million passengers this year, a 15 percent increase over 2013. It comes amid a 12 percent drop in the TSA’s workforce and what he calls “a renewed focus on security.”
The chairman of the panel, Republican Michael McCaul of Texas, said Americans are “angry and frustrated” heading into the summer travel season. He said the crisis “didn’t just come out of nowhere,” and that “airports and airlines have been sounding the alarm for months.”
Long lines have been plaguing airports since early spring, but the issue came to a head in recent weeks when thousands of passengers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport missed flights because of lengthy checkpoint waits.
American Airlines said earlier this month that 4,000 passengers had missed flights at O’Hare since February because of the long wait times, CBS Chicago reported.
New York City area airports have also been affected, to the point where the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has called the TSA screening services inadequate and said it may look to hire private security to do their job.
The TSA has said part of the problem is that passengers haven’t gotten on-board with its PreCheck program, which costs $85 for five years of access.
“We actually have fewer TSA officers working now than we did a year ago, two years ago, three years ago. That’s because as we launched TSA PreCheck, we expected more passengers to sign up for that so our budget request from Congress was less money fewer officers,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said earlier this month.
The budget from Congress has been redirected to pay those fewer officers for more overtime and to hire more TSA agents throughout the country.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged the TSA to increase the number of dogs at security checkpoints. He said they could cut wait times in half.
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