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Impact of Sequestration on TSA 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 Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency
Friday, April 12, 2013

Good morning Chairman Duncan, Ranking Member Barber, 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 issued a Sequester Order on March 1, as mandated by law, requiring across-the-board budget cuts at all federal agencies, including a $3.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year.

TSA is the lead agency for protecting our Nation’s 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 plans.  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 nearly 640 million aviation passengers; 751 million passengers traveling on buses; more than 9 billion passenger trips on mass transit; nearly 800,00 daily shipments of hazardous materials;; more than 140,000 miles of railroad track; over 4 million miles of public roads; and nearly 2.6 million miles of pipeline.

Regardless of the challenging fiscal landscape before us, TSA’s guiding principle has been, and will continue to be, to provide the most effective security in the most efficient manner.

TSA functions as a critical component of our Nation’s counterterrorism efforts with a dedicated workforce working around the clock and across the glove 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.

Throughout sequestration planning efforts, we have been careful to seek prudent, responsible steps toward across-the-board budget reductions.  Our guiding principles have been to preserve TSA’s frontline operations and other mission-critical activities to the maximum extent possible and take care of our workforce by managing hiring practices, managing overtime and through other means.

TSA’s FY 2013 budget request was $200 million less than its FY2012 appropriation, reflecting a variety of planned efficiencies.  After applying the sequester to its final enacted FY2013 appropriation, TSA’s FY 2013 funding level is $670 million less than FY 2012, or about 8.8 percent less than the previous fiscal year.

While the reductions required by sequestration will continue to impact the Transportation Security Administration, the recent passage by Congress of the Fiscal Year 2013 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act provides TSA with additional funding for Transportation Security Officers, and some other areas.

This allows TSA to mitigate the impact on its operations and workforce. TSA will use these additional funds to maintain its security screening workforce through prudent management of hiring and controlled overtime.

Our Federal Air Marshal Service 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.  TSA continues to assess the personnel actions and mission adjustments that will be necessary at this decreased budget level.

Sequestration has also had significant impacts on TSA’s information technology, checkpoint technology, security screening equipment and infrastructure accounts.  TSA is analyzing and working to minimize any disruptions these reductions may cause.

Finally, TSA has taken action to establish additional controls across the agency.  We have canceled conferences, as well as non-mission essential travel and training activities.

In the face of sequestration, TSA will continue implementing an intelligence-driven, risk- based approach to security across all transportation modes while seeking operational and management efficiencies across the organization. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I look forward to answering your questions.