Many of the country’s top airport leaders converged on the nation’s capital this week to talk public safety and security and take part in an open conversation with TSA Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell.
At the 2019 Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) Public Safety and Security Fall Conference, Cogswell touted TSA’s partnership with ACI-NA and offered an update on TSA’s strategy, priorities and opportunities for collaboration.
ACI-NA is the voice of North American airports, representing local, regional and state governing bodies that own and operate commercial airports in the U.S. and Canada. Its members represent more than 300 airports and nearly 400 aviation-related businesses.
REAL ID is a top priority for both TSA and ACI-NA. They’re teaming to remind travelers that everyone must have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or other acceptable form of identification, such as a valid passport or U.S. military ID to fly within the U.S. starting next October.
“This is a critically important deadline,” said Cogswell. “We’ve come a long way [toward meeting the REAL ID mandate]. It is incredibly important for us all to give people the maximum amount of time to get ready for this deadline. Our officers are advising travelers of the deadline.”
ACI-NA President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burke added, “Ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public is a top priority for everyone in this room and every airport, and REAL ID is an important component. This will be critical to ensure that folks who pass through our airports are able to travel.” He told conference attendees, “We need your support locally to ensure we’re making progress to avoid travel disruptions this time next year.”
Cogswell also updated ACI-NA on TSA’s efforts to upgrade screening technology, saying, “This year’s big push was to acquire computed tomography machines to replace our X-ray machines for carry-on baggage, and the credential authentication technology that will let us both rapidly determine if a document might be fraudulent and also retrieve somebody’s vetting status from TSA’s vetting system so that we apply the right type of physical screening.”
She also said TSA is considering ways to screen passengers off-site, away from the traditional airport checkpoint as a mechanism to reduce passenger volume spikes – for example, if thousands of passengers get off a cruise ship and show up at the airport checkpoint at the same time – or places where large numbers of passengers transit en route to the airport – such as mass transit hubs.
“We want to consider whether we can set up screening off-site, so passengers can go immediately from that off-site location into the sterile area,” Cogswell said.
Cogswell touted the success of the TSA Precheck program, saying 71% of Precheck passengers have reenrolled. She also noted efforts to make it simpler for passengers to sign-up for Precheck while they’re in the airport as part of their travel instead of requiring them to make an appointment to apply and going to another location.
Cogswell told the airport group, “The sheer amount I learn every time I visit an airport and talk with you, the fantastic relationships I see on the ground between TSA and airport directors … I can’t thank you enough for all of your help and support. Security is not an easy task. The important goals we jointly seek to achieve are sometimes a number of years in the making. It’s our ongoing partnership, year after year, the day in and day out hard work in the trenches that enables us to make progress and reach our goals.”