Impact of Sequestration on TSA's Operations

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John W. Halinski, Deputy Administrator
Statement by John W. Halinski, Deputy Administrator, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security
Thursday, April 18, 2013

Good morning Chairman Chaffetz, Ranking Member Tierney and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the impact of sequestration on the Transportation Security Administration’s operations.

As you know, the President’s March 1 sequestration order, as mandated by law, requires across-the-board budget cuts at most Federal agencies, including $3.2 billion in cuts for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the end of this fiscal year.

TSA is the Federal Government’s lead agency for protecting our transportation systems from terrorist attacks while ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce.

The agency manages effective and efficient screening and security of all air passengers, baggage, and cargo on passenger planes. It also deploys Federal Air Marshals internationally and domestically to detect, deter, and defeat hostile acts targeting air carriers, airports, passengers, crews, and other transportation infrastructure.

Each year, transportation systems protected by TSA accommodate approximately 640 million aviation passengers; 751 million passengers traveling on buses; more than 9 billion passenger trips on mass transit; nearly 800,000 daily shipments of hazardous materials; more than 140,000 miles of railroad track; more than 4 million miles of public roads; and nearly 2.6 million miles of pipeline.

TSA functions as a critical component of those efforts with a highly dedicated workforce working around the clock and across the globe to execute our transportation security responsibilities.

Every day we interact closely with public and private sector stakeholders in the aviation, freight rail, mass transit and passenger rail, highway, and pipeline sectors to employ an intelligence-driven, risk-based security approach across all modes of transportation. We are dedicated to preventing terrorist attacks, reducing the vulnerability of our transportation systems to terrorism, and improving the experience of the nearly 1.8 million domestic air passengers who fly each day.

Throughout the planning efforts, TSA and its DHS components were careful to strike a balance; to take prudent, responsible steps toward implementing across- the-board budget reductions. Our guiding principles have been as follows:

  • One - preserve TSA’s frontline operations and other mission-critical activities to the maximum extent possible.
  • Two - take care of our workforce by managing hiring practices, managing overtime and through other means.

While the reductions required by sequestration will continue to impact our operations, the recent passage by Congress of the Fiscal Year 2013 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act provides TSA with some additional funding for Transportation Security Officers which, to some degree, lessens the impact on our workforce and operations.

TSA will use these additional funds to maintain its security screening workforce through prudent management of hiring and controlled overtime. Although initial projected impacts on wait times are likely to be mitigated through the additional funding provided by Congress, travelers may see lines and wait times increase during the busiest travel periods or required surge operations.

The Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) has had a hiring pause in place for more than a year to manage a planned program adjustment from $965.8 million in FY 2012 to $929.6 million in FY 2013. Congress further reduced that funding in the full FY 2013 appropriation to $906.9 million, or $858 million under sequestration, an 11.1 percent cut below FY 2012 levels. The FAMS mission funding is dominated by personnel, travel, and related costs. TSA continues to assess the personnel actions and mission adjustments that will be necessary at the decreased budget level.

Sequestration has also had impacts on TSA’s information technology, checkpoint technology, security screening equipment and infrastructure accounts, totaling a $288 million reduction from FY 2012. In light of these cuts, IT service contracts, equipment refreshment and maintenance schedules will be deferred or reduced through the end of the fiscal year.

Furthermore, security equipment technology replacement and investment plans are being adjusted to reflect the reduced budget level.

Finally, TSA is taking action to establish additional controls across the agency.  We have canceled previously approved training activities, conferences, and meetings that require travel. This includes management control training, field oversight and compliance audits, operational and support program coordination planning and preparedness training.

Our Nation continues to face evolving threats to our transportation system. In the face of sequestration, TSA will continue implementing an intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to security across all transportation modes, and do so as efficiently as possible.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I look forward to answering your questions.