The recent passage of a bill by the U.S. Congress that funded the FAA for another five years also effectively reauthorized the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the first time since its establishment in 2001. The bill reauthorizes funding for three years at an average level of $7.9 billion and establishes a five-year term of service for the TSA administrator.
The air transport industry took particular interest in the reforms contained in the bill that included tougher vetting of airline employees in an effort to mitigate so-called insider threats. Other measures included expansion of field operations testing of new screening technologies, increased use of explosives-sniffing dogs, and certain enhancements to public area security. It also addressed passenger and cargo security as well as flight deck and cabin security, surface transportation security, and foreign airport security.
“Better protecting Americans requires a holistic approach to security that is both risk-based and intelligence-driven,” said House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul. “In this high-threat environment facing airports and commercial aviation, terrorists continue to target the aviation sector, as we saw in Istanbul, Brussels, and the Sinai Peninsula. The measure passed by the House...will play a crucial role in protecting hundreds of millions of air travelers in the United States and those flying home from abroad.
“Additionally, this bill authorizes the piloting, testing, and prioritization of computed tomography technology to enhance our ability to detect firearms, explosives, and other dangerous items.”
For airline passengers, the bill makes TSA PreCheck enrollment easier and directs the administration to meet specific targets for expanding enrollment. However, another provision restricts PreCheck privileges to members of a trusted traveler program, effectively barring anyone else from passing through PreCheck security lanes during busy periods.
Meanwhile, a new consumer protection provision requires the TSA to make real-time information on wait times available via technology at each airport security checkpoint to the public online and in airport terminals.