Good afternoon Chairman Ayotte, Ranking Member Cantwell, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Budget Request for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
TSA is a high-performing counterterrorism organization, applying a multi-layered, intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to protect the Nation’s transportation systems, including aviation, mass transit, rail, highway, and pipeline. In support of this mission, TSA developed the FY 2016 budget request with three priorities in mind: advancing risk-based security, enhancing workforce engagement, and improving organizational efficiency.
TSA could not accomplish this essential mission without a workforce trained, equipped and committed to the safety and security of this Nation. Each of our more than 50,000 personnel remains steadfast in the face of a threat that has not diminished more than a decade following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In fact, over the years, the adversary has become more inventive and persistent, while at the same time growing and spreading to other countries and regions. We continue to face a real and persistent threat from adversaries adept in the design, construction and concealment of explosives. As such, TSA is evolving our approach to transportation security and to mitigate risks we all face when traveling from, within and to the United States. I am proud of the employees on the frontlines who conduct themselves as true professionals in the performance of their daily duties.
In pursuit of TSA’s mission, in FY 2014, Transportation Security Officers screened approximately 650 million passengers, and more than 2 billion carry-on and checked bags, preventing approximately 105,000 dangerous prohibited items, including 2,300 firearms, from being carried onto planes. TSA also screened a daily average of 6 million air passengers against terrorist databases.
Additionally, Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) flew thousands of flights domestically and internationally providing in-flight security for high risk routes; Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams conducted almost 17,000 operations; Transportation Security Inspectors (TSIs) completed over 1,054 airport inspections, 17,894 aircraft operator inspections, and 2,959 foreign air carrier inspections to ensure compliance with rules and regulations; and TSA’s vetting systems perpetually vetted 14.8 million transportation worker records each day against the Terrorist Screening Database.
Risk-Based Security (RBS)
TSA continues to deploy multi-layered, intelligence-driven, risk-based initiatives to enhance security. These risk-based security initiatives boost the effectiveness of security in a more efficient manner, by directing resources focused on high-risk and unknown travelers and commerce, while at the same time facilitating the movement of legitimate travelers and trade. In addition, TSA has enhanced the customer experience for the traveling public. RBS methods have proven more efficient in moving people through the checkpoint than standard screening lanes, requiring fewer screeners and fewer lanes than traditional screening operations. As a result, TSA continues to gain efficiencies through RBS initiatives, with savings of approximately $350 million over the past two years at airports.
In order to bolster the ongoing success of RBS initiatives, TSA continues to expand the prescreening process by increasing the number of known, lower-risk travelers eligible for expedited screening. TSA has made substantial strides in RBS including:
- Increasing the number of airports with TSA Pre✓® screening lanes to 132;
- Establishing 559 dedicated and supplemental TSA Pre✓® lanes; and
- Adding TSA Pre✓® Application Program enrollment sites at 326 centers, which have processed nearly one million applicants.
TSA continues to work closely with airlines to expand the number of air carriers participating in TSA Pre✓®, enhance Known Crewmember, and extend eligibility for TSA Pre✓® to U.S. Armed Forces personnel and Department of Defense civilian employees. In November 2014, TSA offered TSA Pre✓® expedited screening benefits to students of the four U.S. service academies. On average, more than 60,000 Department of Defense employees benefit from TSA Pre✓® on a weekly basis.
Through these measures, TSA increased the percent of passengers receiving some form of expedited screening from 9.6 percent in September 2013 to 44.3 percent a year later. TSA Pre✓® volume has increased 600% with more than 300 million passengers receiving expedited screening, since 2013. More than 12.5 million passengers were screened between November 26 and December 2, a 1.3 percent increase from 2013. Of the record number of travelers flying over this past holiday season, nearly 50 percent experienced expedited screening. In addition, nationwide, 99.6 percent of passengers moved expeditiously through checkpoint lines, waiting less than 20 minutes in line.
TSA continues to focus on increasing the population of known and trusted travelers receiving TSA Pre✓® by expanding participation to additional U.S. and foreign air carriers, identifying and enrolling more trusted populations. In addition, TSA is exploring private sector enrollment capabilities, leveraging industry expertise in marketing and offering additional opportunities for enrollment beyond the existing 326 centers currently in existence across the nation.
TSA’s multi-layered approach to screening also includes real time threat assessments through the deployment of behavior detection techniques, explosives detection canines and explosives trace detection equipment, and risk based physical screening utilizing differentiated screening procedures and technology applications.
Our RBS security efforts are part of a strategic application of intelligence-driven risk mitigation principles that moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach to security. TSA will continue to focus on adopting risk-based approaches to other aspects of aviation security, including checked baggage, air cargo, regulatory compliance, and through the identification of potential enhancements to FAM deployments.
The FY 2016 President’s Budget includes total funding of $7.3 billion for TSA. This represents a 7 percent decrease in TSA’s overall budget, and a savings of $653 million in appropriated funding, over the past five years, if the FY 2016 request is enacted. This funding supports TSA’s three strategic priorities constituting the basis of TSA’s budget request.
Risk Based Security
TSA continues to promote the most effective security in the most efficient manner. The implementation of RBS initiatives has resulted in a smaller, more professional and capable workforce. The FY 2016 budget includes a reduction of $119 million and 1,748 personnel related to workforce savings due to RBS efficiencies. This includes a reduction of $110.5 million and 1,666 full-time equivalents (FTE) from the screener workforce due to a more efficient screening process requiring fewer personnel.
As TSA RBS measures change the nature of screening operations, including reducing the number of lanes and transitioning to a smaller, more professional workforce, TSA is able to reduce the number of Transportation Security Specialist-Explosives (TSS-E) personnel by 18 employees and $2.0 million. TSS-Es resolve checkpoint alarms when a suspected threat is detected, and train TSOs to better recognize characteristics of explosive devices. This program will continue to operate in the Nation’s largest airports, but with fewer screeners and improved technology, fewer TSS-Es are required for the training responsibility.
Additionally, TSA recently conducted an analysis of inspection data and risk scores to drive and prioritize inspection activity. That information, along with the latest intelligence, will be used to deploy Transportation Security Inspectors to focus on those areas with higher risks and those parties requiring additional oversight to improve security compliance. As a result, TSA is proposing a reduction of $6.5 million and 64 employees.
In April 2012, TSA established the TSA Academy located at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia and joined more than 92 partner organizations who train at FLETC. The Academy’s initial course offering was the Essentials of Supervising Screening Operations led by a dedicated group of instructors and facilitators including Academy staff, Federal Air Marshals (FAMs), Federal Security Directors, and members of the FLETC Leadership and International Training Division. The course was designed and developed for delivery to our more than 4,500 Supervisory Transportation Security Officers. By the end of FY 2014, 167 classes were delivered and 4,568 participants trained, including training for Lead Transportation Security Officers, Transportation Security Inspectors, Security Training Instructors, and TSS-E personnel.
In support of TSA’s efforts towards professionalization of the screening officer workforce, the budget request includes $2.5 million to expand mission essential training at the TSA Academy. The funding will expand training staff to serve more categories of employees and support follow-on training that will continue to build upon an established foundation.
The budget request also supports an increase of $5.2 million to hire and train additional FAMs. These efforts will include recruitment of women and veterans which will enhance the diversity and skill set of our workforce. The last class of FAMs came onboard on September 11, 2011. Hiring will allow this vital program to refresh its ranks, and assign new hires to locations of strategic value based on risk-based principles and in accordance with a newly developed Concept of Operations governing strategic deployment of FAMS on high-risk flights.
In FY 2016, the FAMS will finalize the workforce realignment begun in FY 2015, through the closure of the final two of six offices. Upon completion of the workforce realignment, resources will be positioned with greater strategic value, enhancing the ability of the organization to schedule FAMs on missions of the highest criticality, thereby ensuring the most effective security in the most efficient manner.
TSA’s budget includes funding to support Department-wide initiatives related to cybersecurity and Watchlist services. TSA requests $2.9 million for cybersecurity remediation efforts to achieve the Department of Homeland Security’s goal of remediating all known vulnerabilities in the most high-risk systems by FY 2017, thereby enhancing critical network infrastructure protection.
TSA utilizes the Watchlist Service, which provides terrorist screening data to DHS components. The request includes an increase of $2.8 million to automate currently manual processes. Once completed, real-time updates will be available to TSA and other users of the Watchlist Service.
As TSA continues applying risk-based security principles throughout the organization, we must also continue shaping and investing in the workforce we need to enable our future successes. Through hard work and a focus on efficiency, we are becoming a smaller, more capable workforce. I am committed to developing, training and equipping that workforce to continue providing the most effective security in the most efficient manner.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for this opportunity to discuss the President’s FY 2016 budget request for TSA. I look forward to working together and will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.