DHS will subject TSA to covert security audits over summer
The Department of Homeland Security is planning new covert security tests for the Transportation Security Administration at airports throughout the nation. The move comes as security lines at airports are being criticized as some of the worst in history.
DHS Inspector General John Roth told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Monday that his office is developing methods to test how well the TSA is carrying out security protocols.
The tests will be the first major inspection of the agency since last summer, when DHS inspectors managed to smuggle fake bombs and weapons through security checkpoints an astounding 95 percent of the time.
During the hearing, Roth told lawmakers that he believes that the TSA is in better hands thanks to the reforms that came after the bombshell report.
“TSA is now, for the first time in memory, critically assessing its deficiencies in an honest and objective light," Roth said.
TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, who was placed as the agency’s head to in the wake of the poor test results, told senators that the agency’s first priority is safety in light of the ever-evolving threat of global terrorism.
Neffenger said that heightened security measures, such as additional full body scanners, will be implemented during the summer, which is the busiest time for travel in the year.
However, the TSA has drawn fire from the public and from lawmakers in recent weeks over its extremely long screening lines that have caused hundreds of people around the country to miss their flights.
Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) noted that security and speed are efficiency goals that are often in competition with one another.
"We oftentimes fail to acknowledge an undeniable tension that exists at the core of TSA's mission," Carper said. "On the one hand, we ask TSA to screen millions of passengers and their luggage carefully each day. On the other hand, millions of passengers want to get on board their airplanes on time and without the aggravation that security screening can often bring."
Neffenger said that progress is already being made in terms of security wait times, telling lawmakers that 99 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes and 93 percent waited less than 15 minutes over the busy Memorial Day weekend.
He said that the agency has focused on making lines move quickly by adding more lanes and staffing at the nation’s largest airports, which suffered the most from out-of-control wait times.
“If you can prevent problems from happening there, you don’t have problems that cascade through the system,” TSA Administrator Peter V. Neffenger told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “You really need to pay attention to these large hub airports.”
TSA screens more than 2 million passengers every day, Neffenger said.