tv TSA Officials Testify on COVID-19 Summer Travel CSPAN July 22, 2021 3:59am-5:13am EDT
an hour -- this runs an hour, ten minutes. >> the subcommittee on transportation and maritime security will come to order. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare the subcommittee in recess at the any point. welcome to the transportation and maritime security subcommittee's hearing entitled taking to the skies: examining
tsa's strategy for addressing increased summer travel. thank you to rank member jimenez -- ranking member jimenez and our panel of witnesses for joining us. as rates of vaccination against covid-19 increase across the country, a growing number of travelers are taking to the skies once more. the numbers are striking. indeed, on the first today of this month, tsa screened more people in a day than it did on the same day in 2019, before the pandemic. and the daily number of travelers screened at tsa checkpoints crossed the 2 million threshold multiple times in june. this is leading to fuller flights, longer lines at airports, and, it seems, higher tensions as passengers reacquaint themselves with the old and the new rules of flying. today we will hear from our witnesses about how tsa is
managing this increase in summer travel as well as crucial information about tsa's role in addressing incidents of unruly passenger behaviors at checkpoints and in the air. as travel increases, our witnesses will share what efforts tsa is undertaking to recruit and retain more transportation security officers to insure airports have adequate staffing. in addition, many of my colleagues and i are disturbed by the unacceptable lines and violence on planes and at airports that we have seen in the news. as chair of this subcommittee, i am a particularly perturbed by the number of violent assault ises against our tsa officers in recent months. more than 70 tsos have been assaulted since the start of the pandemic. these hard working men and women, they've been on the front lines throughout the pandemic
and simply should not have to endure this kind of treatment. another alarming trend we are seeing is the uptick in firearms, most of them loaded, that have been found in passengers' carry-on bags. according to tsa, 2800 firearms have been caught at checkpoints so far this year. i am hopeful that our witnesses will share their perspectives on these encounters and what can be done to prevent them. while the pace of recovery in air travel is encouraging, we must not forget that the coronavirus and particularly the dangerous delta variant is still at large. the mask mandate aboard planes and in airports remains in place until september 13th, and now is not the time to let our foot off the gas in terms of doing all that we can to prevent the virus' spread.
as more travelers take to the air, i look forward to hearing from your our witnesses about tsa strategy thus far and its future plans. thank you. the chair now recognizes the ranking member of the subcommittee, the gentleman from florida, mr. jimenez, for an opening statement. >> thank you, chair coal banker i really appreciate that. as the subcommittee is holding this hearing today to discuss how tsa is securing the traveling public in our nation's airports and their struggle to recover. as we emerge from the pandemic's devastating toll on air travel, americans are increasingly ready to return to travel to conduct the business, enjoy vacations and visit family. i was pleased to see that tsa screened over 2.2 million passengers on sunday which is the highest level of air travel
volume since march of 2020. in addition, there are ten days already this month of over 2 million daily travelers. on my way to d.c. from miami yesterday, i saw this increased passenger volume firsthand. the lines for security were the longest that i have ever seen there at miami international airport, and the line for tsa precheck were nearly 50 yards long from front to back. again, that's the longest line i've ever seen on tsa precheck. and what i'm understanding is at least at america ia they're back to almost -- mia they're back to almost 95% of air travelers, and a huge international hub, and international business is way down so once international travel starts to pick up again, we may actually sur is pass pre-pandemic -- surpass pre-pandemic levels. we must insure our checkpoints
are -- with the number of travelers that they're seeing. this issue must be addressed quickly to meet the growing demand on air travel. i'm heartened that leisure air travel has recovered around the country the pre-pandemic levels, but tsa needs to be ready for an increase in business travel this fall as well as prodiswrected increase -- projected increases in international travel. i remain concerned about staffing shortages at checkpoints will continue to grow as passenger volumes increase. i look forward to hearing from today's witnesses about tsa's efforts to hire additional screen ors for summer travel. i believe that an obt cl to recruiting and retaining tsa officers is that they need to be paid more. increasing tsa, tso pay is important to maintaining a strong work force and to secure the traveling public. as passenger volumes continue to increase this summer and into the fall if,s it isen incumbent on tsa to facilitate the higher
travel volume in an efficient and very secure manner. thank you, madam chairwoman, and i yield back the balance of my time. >> thank you, ranking member. members are also reminded that the subcommittee will operate according to the guidelines laid out by the chairman and the ranking member in their february 3rd or colloquy regarding remote procedures. the chair now recognizes the chairman of the full committee, the gentleman from mississippi, mr. thompson, for an opening statement. >> thank you, chairwoman watson coleman, and thank you to our witnesses for joining us today. for much of last year, the skies were empty. ing vaccines were a distant dream, and at one point it seemed airlines were on the brink of collapse. at the beginning of lockdown, there was -- tsa screened less than 100,000 passengers. in contrast this month, tsa
routinely screens over 2 million passengers. but unfortunately, our nation's return the travel has not gone smoothly. long lines have returned at checkpoints meaning tsa has had to fight for more talent in this competitive job market. that fight for talenting is hindered by the fact that tsa workers still do not receive the pay and protection afforded to other federal workers. so i'm glad to be working with the biden administration to fix that problem. tso work hard under normal conditions, but the combination of covid-19 and a dramatic uptick in unruly passengers has made the job even more challenging. across the country dozens of tso have been physically assaulted in recent months, passengers have pushed and shoved officers, and in some cases passengers have literally bit tsos.
not only that, but the rate of firearm -- at checkpoints doubled last year. consistently, over 80% of firearms, as already said by the chairwoman, have been found load ed. passengers must if leave their firearms at home or follow the proper procedures for checking them as bringing them to a checkpoint creates disruption that could prove dangerous. needless to say, this is a concerning trend. there have been significant spikes also in disruptive passengers in the skies as flight attendants have been assault or harassed with regularity. all too often these assaults occur simply because a crew member was doing their job in seeking to forward common sense mask policies to protect fliers from covid-19. although the public is most familiar with tsa's on the
ground responsibility, federal air marshals play an potential role in air auation -- essential role in aviation security once passengers get onboard. .. to protect the traveling public and a look forward it to your testimony. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i now welcome our panel of witnesses today. mr. darby lajoye is the executive assistant administrator for security operations at the transportation security administration. after recently returning from a stint as acting tsa administrator. in his current role he oversees
checkpoint and baggage screening operations impacting millions of passengers at approximately 440 airports every day. oversight of more than 280 international airports conducting last points of departure operations to and from the united united statese service network that encompasses freight, railroad, passenger rail, as transit, maritime, and pipelines. mr. michael on december is the executive assistant administrator -- mr. ondocin, and law enforcement in the civil air marshal service at the tsa. in his role he oversees the deployment of federal air marshals on u.s. air -- i'm sorry, on u.s. aircraft worldwide as well as protection response, detection and assessment activities in airports and other transportation systems. without objection the witnesses
false statements will be inserted into the record. i now ask each witness to summarize his statements for five minutes beginning with mr. lajoye. >> good morning, chairwoman watson coleman, ranking member gimenez and distinguished members of the subcommittee. thank you for inviting me to testify before you today. i appreciate the opportunity to discuss the transportation security administrations operations and strategy for addressing increased summer travel. like all of us tsa face tremendous challenges for the past 18 months from its ongoing global pandemic. when air travel came to a near standstill our operational agility, the resilience of our workforce and the strength of our partnerships were tested like never before. i am incredibly proud of the way we have adapted to these unprecedented challenges and positioned our agency to support what has been an historical recovery in passenger demand.
through the darkest times of the pandemic we never wavered from commitment of protecting the nation transportation systems and entering the freedom of movement of people and commerce. from the very beginning, tsa place the highest priority on health and safety of our employees and that of the traveling public. we moved quickly to implement protective measures at security checkpoints and screen locations across the country. we enforce social at our checkpoints, installed acrylic shielding to minimize personal contacts, increased sanitation efforts, and require officers to wear face masks, gloves, eye protection, and face shields. we use our personnel flexibility to offer new leave options for employees at high risk of severe illness from exposure to the virus, and maximize telework and flexible scheduling options whenever possible. and we were at the forefront of providing accelerated vaccine access to the department's
operation vaccinate our workforce. we took a direct a meaningful action to supplement the worldwide pandemic response. we help repatriate over 100,000 american citizens stranded across 136 countries and facilitate the distribution of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies such as ventilators to countries around the world. before i continue to want to take a moment to thank our workforce. our tsa officers, are good nation sender officers, our federal air marshals, our k-9 teams, our aviation surface cargo inspectors, are betting personnel, and all the staff that stands behind them. to every single person who stood firm in fulfill their duty i'm proud of the continued resilience and professionalism. air force passenger volumes are finally nearing and consistently exceeding pre-pandemic levels. we anticipated this increase and began a concerted recruitment effort this past winter to hire
and support come to hide the support needed to handle these increasing volumes throughout the remainder of the year. we took additional measures such as doubling the size of our national deployment force to provide resources where needed. tsa is off-line -- also utilizing several incentives to recruit new employees and retain our valued workforce to ensure that adequate staffing levels continue. these efforts are paying dividends. sunday, july 18 was one of the busiest air travel days of 2021 with the tsa screening over 2.24 million passengers. over the entire fourth of july holiday period, july first through the seventh come tsa screen almost 14 million passengers with 97% weighting less than 20 minutes in standard lanes and less than five minutes in tsa pretext lanes. more important there were no major security incidents impacting the transportation sector.
we are confident tsa prepared and is well-positioned to effectively meet increasing passenger volumes throughout the remainder of the summer. unfortunately with the increase in passenger volumes tsa has also seen an increase in unruly passengers at tsa checkpoints across the country and onboard aircraft. since the beginning of the pandemic there have been over 85 physical assaults on tsa officers. additionally we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of incidents onboard aircraft with over 3600 in-flight disturbances since the beginning of the pandemic. sadly many of these disturbances have become violent resulting in assault against fellow passengers and flight crew. our industry partners have reported an increase in assault and other modes of transportation as well. and i want to thank those frontline transportation workers including flight crew who do their jobs every single day to make sure the traveling public is safe. additionally and as noted by the
members, tsa continues to detect firearms on passengers and can carry on bags a checkpoints at an alarming rate. as of early july tsa detected 2807 firearms in 2021, 85 of which were loaded in 2020 tsa officers discovered a total of 3257 firearms on passengers or in their carry-on bags at checkpoints. to increase awareness of the department for properly transporting firearms dss enhance gamification and outreach efforts with the public and stakeholders. in february of this year we published updated enforcement sanction guidance which increased civil penalty ranges that tsa can impose. for first-time violation tsa may impose a fine of up to $10,000 if the firearm is loaded. air travelers coming to checkpoints for the first time since before the pandemic may see some changes in the security
technology if they encounter. throughout the pandemic tsa has worked to accelerate the fluid of state-of-the-art technology such as computer tomography, credential authentication technology and on person screening enhancements. >> mr. lajoye, excuse me. you've got be on your five minutes. could you wrap it up and presley can get to some of this to the questions? >> yes, ma'am. let me just in by thinking, thank you all for the opportunity today and i look forward to answering questions. >> thank you, mr. lajoye. i'm certain we'll get to some of the additional information and questions. you headed into an airy we are very interested in. and thank you for that. i now recognize mr. ondocin to summarize a statement for five minutes. mr. ondocin yes, the morning chairwoman watson coleman, ranking member gimenez and distinguished members. thank you for this opportunity to testify before you today to discuss the transportation administrations law enforcement
federal air marshal service approach in securing aviation travel which continued increase in very low levels at the height of the covid pandemic. the dedication and commitment of our federal marshals to ensure the safety and security of our nation transportation system and its travelers is unwavering. federal landmarks of the plate critical roles investigation apprehension of suspects in the aviation domain, the protection passengers and crew members and the security of transportation hubs deterring terrorism. throughout the unprecedented circumstances of the worldwide covid-19 pandemic our workforce steadfastly maintain the tsa mission in securing the nation's transportation system and more specifically we remain focused on the highest risk to transportation. to maintain operations the deployment of federal air marshals during this time proved challenging but the safety of our federal air marshals was not overlooked or minimize for the sake of the mission. our workforce is our greatest asset and the health and wellness is vital to mission success. in a few weeks we will mark
20th since september 11 terrorist event security of the nation's transportation system to kill thousands of people and afflict unimaginable damage. today is postured to mitigate threats nederland aviation travel but almost of transportation with numerous layers of security. two of these vital layers are our federal air marshals who deploy our missions globally a threat the many hundreds of transportation venues within the united states, and our federal flight deck officers who pilot thousands of aircraft prepared to protect the last threshold. the unique can close in front of an aircraft creates a challenging workplace for federal air marshals but they're highly skilled and trained to deal with a wide variety of situations. the ability to rapidly deployed in order to respond and address worldwide threats, risks and natural disasters has long been the capability of tsa's law enforcement federal air marshal service. federal air marshals have aided in rescue and screwed efforts
stretching from new orleans with hurricane katrina, the massive floods in bismarck, north dakota,, the , evacuation of expatriates in lebanon in 2007 and with the first wave of covid-19's hit the u.s. shores on the 2020 our federal marshals assisted in the initial porting effort of those returning to the country on crew ships. the volunteer force the federal flight deck officers is composed of dedicated commercial airline pilot who not only pilot but her arm to defend the flight deck at all cost. these men and women are trained at the federal law enforcement training centers with the necessary skills to stop a threat to the aircraft controls. their selfless service aligns with tsa's commitment to aviation security and the presence ensures the security for thousands of flights. visible intermodal prevention and response teams, calmly known as vipr, , continued a local ste of security stakeholders providing federal law enforcement support for transportation venues nationwide. our federal air marshals provide unique skills and bring their experience within the
transportation sector to our partners and felt law-enforcement agencies. i want to personally thank our federal air marshals, federal flight deck officers at her transportation security officers and the hundreds of support personnel for their service in securing our nation's transportation system. i appreciate the subcommittees continued support of tsa and its mission. thank you for this opportunity today and on the 42 and two questions. >> thank you very much for your testimony. both of you recognize y member of our committee is interested in the safety and security of our tsa employees on the ground and our air marshals and all passengers in the air. so we're going to have a series of questions that are trying to direct your attention and asked for specific responses to those. i'm going to recognize myself first for questions. i'm very concerned about the reports of some 85 assaults against tsa officers since the
start of the pandemic. i'm interested in understanding what conditions and situations have preceded these assaults, and are these incidences, , are they connected with frustration about the mask mandate or procedures and wait times? or is it our coal consumption? mr. lajoye, i'd like to start with you. you could respond to that sort of briefly. i think you have to unmute. mr. ondocin, -- while were tryio connect you come we may have a problem connecting with you,
too, mr. ondocin. i'm going to ask about the federal air marshals here. i do recognize that tsa employees -- employs a number of air marshals that the exact number is a sensitive security information issues that can't be discussed in this forum. but speaking generally given the recent increases and disturbances on flights, do you have a need for more air marshals? and is the current rate at which the fans that are on board and able to respond to these incidences sufficient?
>> thank you. mr. lajoye, mr. ondocin could you just nod if you are hearing me? there's no connectivity. >> i hear you very well, madam chair, so it must be on very end. >> yeah, yeah. >> i hear you, madam chair. >> mr. gimenez and chairman thompson, we're going to take deposit and see if we can straighten this out.
so we'll be in recess until you can connect again to our witnesses. let me gavel is back in session. we are now back in session, thank you. as i was saying i'm particularly concern with the reports of 85 assaults against tsa officers since the start of this pandemic. i would like to have your response to these questions. what conditions and situations preceded these events, these assaults? are incidences connected with frustration about the mask mandate, frustration with grading procedures and wait times or alkyl consumption? mr. lajoye. >> well, venture for the
question, madam chair. i think it's fair to say that all of those conditions is something that we are experiencing. we sadly had two assaults yesterday from one of our checkpoints. there have been some frustration over the mask mandates. has been widely reported. we are also seeing a number of these, whether it's on our checkpoints were in the air. they are out call related. our best judgment would dictate that all of these are having some type of an impact on what we are seeing at our checkpoints and on board the aircraft. >> so if you are observing passengers or potential passengers that are exhibiting these kinds of behaviors, exactly what do you all do in terms of whether or not they are allowed to get on the plane? >> well, madam chair, so for anybody at our checkpoints whose exhibiting those types of behaviors we immediately have law-enforcement respond, and with a tremendous support from
our airport law enforcement partners. a number of these assaults are resulting in arrests, and so they never get through our checkpoints at the they nevn board the aircraft. so if we have a clear indication at our checkpoints somebody is already exhibiting violent behavior, we will notify law enforcement and they will not proceed to the checkpoint. ultimately they will not board the aircraft. >> i would think that your response to assaults upon the tsos is very severe. could you give me some indication about how individuals are fine can have been charged for assaulting these officers? what sort of penalties do they face? in general are you keeping a a log, a record of incidences at the checkpoints with regard to people you had to remove, how many, what for and what happened to them?
>> yes, ma'am. every one of these, so every assault by tso we investigate. so they are subject to a civil penalty up to almost $15,000 as a result of the physical psalter in addition if they're a member of the tsa precheck it could result in a temporary on up to a permanent ban from tsa pretext dependent on the severity to as us the data before a number of these resulting in local charges law-enforcement and additional come with a tremendous support from u.s. attorneys around the country in bringing federal criminal charges both in cases against our officers or against members of the flight crew. so it's both federal and local criminal charges, in addition to civil penalties up to $50,000 in potential in a ban on the tsa precheck. >> can you provide us with information as to how many
people have been fined, how may people have been arrested? >> we can certainly provide that back for the record and will go back to the beginning of the pandemic charting this and will provide that back. >> thank you very much. a quick question before my time is up to you, mr. ondocin. i know i recognize the number of federal air marshals that you all employ assorted sensitive secret information that can't be discussed in a forum of this nature, but given the recent increases in disturbances do you have enough air marshals? and is at the current rate at which federal air marshals on board and able to respond to these incidences that it been demonstrated, verified sufficient? >> yes, madam chair. at this point in time i do have enough federal air marshals to cover our mission. our mission hasn't really changed since prior to 2019.
our federal marshals are still providing in-flight security. as far as the amount of federal air marshals over the next few years i may need some support in hiring through attrition as large portion of our workforce entered on service right after 9/11 and will be coming up to the 20 year anniversary. but at this point in time i'm confident that it did have enough. >> thank you, mr. ondocin. my time has expired but i do have a cigarette of questions regarding air marshals and their well-being and the type of scheduling that takes place, but now i'd like to yield to the ranking member, mr. gimenez. >> thank you, madam chair. i appreciate that. i'm still -- what happens to passengers that are carrying firearms either in their person or in their carry-on bags? >> so immediately when tsa detects the firearm on the x-ray we will notify law enforcement.
everything stops because to the point where we are raising earlier this bring much a public safety concern for our checkpoints. 85% of the weapons that we encounter are loaded. oftentimes haphazardly thrown in a bag and so first priority is to stop and allow law enforcement to take control of the situation, and then the pinion with the very state of local laws may be law enforcement will take it for action. it could be anything from an arrest. it could be placing the weapon in a safe location, allowing the passenger to return it in some case by the very first instance for tsa is to notify state and local law enforcement to take control of the situation. >> there's no federal law prohibiting somebody transporting a firearm, trying to get a firearm onto an airplane? >> there's certainly a number of civil statutes that would prohibit somebody from bringing a weapon aboard the aircraft,
and so immediately following the law-enforcement action, tsa investigate everyone of the circumstances for a civil penalty. >> not a a criminal penalty? i understand some people may have, they inadvertently leave a firearm in a kerry on et cetera i understand that, okay, but there's, the civil penalty is not a criminal penalty to do that? >> each one of these are going to depend on the circumstances. we have to defer to doj on that but one of the challenges is that intent, the intent element is that something that's in a federal criminal statute so it really depends on what, if any, aggravating circumstances they be present if the gun was stolen or depend on the particular circumstances we did get support from u.s. attorneys but is very much dependent on the individual circumstances of the case. >> some of them are carry-on, some of them to find them on the person, right? >> that is correct. we've had circumstances where we
found them on the person. the predominance of these things are in a bag in the most often cerise is simply forgot it was into but we've had circumstances when we discovered these things on their person. >> would you say that the majority of those that have the gun on them have some kind of concealed weapons permit and they just think it's okay because they have concealed weapons permit? >> that's certainly something we encounter. i i mean again depend on the different state when we find obviously thousands of weapons and you're so we can go back and see if we know how many of those cases those individuals have concealed carry permit but to your point i think the way we focus on this is twofold. we prioritize the enforcement actions so we actually added six aggravating factors to a weapon. if it's loaded, if there's around that is chambered, if they are a member of a tsa
trusted travel, if it's an aggravating factor. but again the most often cited reason is simple forgot it's in there. we develop a pamphlet that we issued in the spring and summer to get word out how people can properly transport weapons if they travel. >> and what happens to somebody who's tried, tries to do this two times, twice? you have a database of people that you've seen try to get to tsa with a firearm and then somehow tried to do it again? >> we do. our numbers, the number of repeat offenders is about 6%, and it's about a handful of those who repeat it beyond two times. and then frankly the penalties get quite severe for repeat offenders. it really is at the maximum civil penalties and a number of these things at that point, again depending on the circumstances, may result in criminal penalties as well with
state and local but we do have that information. >> i don't know if you answered the question. is it a federal crime to try to bring a firearm onto an airplane? >> depending on the circumstances it may but the thing that's lacking in the federal criminal statute, and again i have to defer to counsel, is the element of intent. what we offered here is, our experience is a general on the circumstances themselves, they are may not result in a federal charge him. >> okay. did you guys to change policy at all, anything happen differently on monday and start something on monday because of -- what i saw first thing was unbelievably long lines at tsa. did you guys change something or it was just a really heavy travel? >> with not changed in policies will. i i think which are recognizings we are seeing exceedingly increasing numbers of passenger
volume. just last week 117 airports are already exceeding what the bulk is in 2019, which is sort of pre-pandemic. that's how we measure things. our experience every single day is when we have these wait times every single one of our length is open. generally capacity constraints in a system or sometimes equipment could break, but our federal security directors are getting their lanes open. >> okay. >> thank you. take you to the ranking member. your time has expired. chair now recognizes the chairman, mr. thompson. >> thank you very much, madam chair. let me thank the witnesses for their testimony. mr. lajoye, are you satisfied
the present uptick in travel that tsa will be able to accommodate demand our requirements going forward to address this? >> i am, mr. chairman. so year to date we've hired about 4700 officers. just this last two weeks, we track at every two weeks ago we brought on almost 500 officers, and we are on pace to meet the 6000 number that we know we needed through the summer. but again, i do recognize that we are facing the same challenges that many are in competing for talent and so this is really been a focus of ours because while i'm confident we have plans in place for the summer i also recognize that as a get closer to the fall and winter as business travel continues as well as international travel picks up we're going to have to continue
working with the airlines to make sure that in the fall and winter continue adequate resources in our airports. >> so as you compete for taleno you make some analysis of why tsos leave tsa? >> we do, mr. chairman, and consistently what our internal scores show is that officers are very dedicated to the mission but they leave because of pay. at this point there simply so many other organizations that would love to have tsa employees work for them, the most common reason we find is merely because of inadequate pay. >> there are a lot of us who have advocated from the beginning to treat tsos just like we do the majority of other federal employees.
so if we are in effect losing good people because of pay, why either as administrator or secretary won't we fix this? what is the problem with the fixed? >> well, i think, mr. chairman, we are certainly aware of your concerns in this area, and the secretary mayorkas, this is been a priority for the secretary since he came in office and is been a priority for the administrative for the last four years. the secretary has directed us to provide back to him a specific plan that addresses the structural problems with the tso pay in addition to some of the rights to collective bargaining so we all of that plan back to the secretary. happy to provide a briefing back plan is complete. >> so the point is -- to the
secretary? >> we went to the department beginning, i i can get the ext date. >> my concern is that we're losing the people and it's a matter of pay and we don't pay people emit script like other federal employees. tsa has some authorities you like, whatever it is come from what i hear from everyone who's been on his hearing so far, they want to fix it. and so if there are problems just give us the impediments and i think will go forward. because most of us go through airports every week, and a number one issue we hear from those tsos is i like my job, but as soon as a get my time and i'm going to transfer because i can't support my family. thank you very much. the other question i have is
reference federal air marshals here . so mr. ondocin, do federal air marshals currently have all the necessary authorities to address any and all issues around airline or passenger security in the air? >> yes, sir we do. federal air marshals have authority under title 49. they would have the same authorities as any other federal law enforcement officer in the government but we have the appropriate authorities to conduct our mission. >> thank you. so it's an issue around the passenger having an issue with
one of the employees on the plane in the air, that marshall has the authority to intercede? >> yes, sir pic if the crime is committed on board an aircraft by a passenger, our federal air marshals do have the authority to enforce the law and make an arrest. >> so if it's an issue around a mask or if it's any other issue, i don't want to split hairs with crime, but if this passenger was just being totally unresponsive to the directions of the staff, that air marshal undercurrent authorities can intercede? >> the time of the gentleman has expired but we we're going tw you to answer that question, please, as expeditiously as possible. thank you. >> so flight attendants are trained and we offer crewmembers
self-defense to handle most minor offenses. if a mask of a noncompliance with the mask turns into an assault or turns into a crime on board the aircraft, our federal air marshals are trained to take appropriate action. >> thank you madam chair for being so gracious with your time. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. lajoye, the chairman is absolutely right about the level of pay. as being an incentive to stay or go but it's even more than just the pay you pay the it is the predictability of the regular increases and it is the other pension and benefits that are, according to those individuals that are under title v and we're very interested in ensuring equality, and under this opportunity. the chair now yields to the gentlelady from iowa,
ms. miller-meeks. >> thank you, madam chair, and i want to thank our gentleman for their testimony so i'll pontificate all of it as well. members of congress travel a lot. that's no surprise. i go back to my district in iowa every opportunity that i have. i find that it keeps me humble and also my constituents bring up things to me that end up becoming resolutions or letters or laws. so most recently when i travel i go through a lot of airports that i'm not sure what you would consider their size in town 72 to 300,000 people. in the past two airports of guff is a he is a checkpoint has not been utilized. we've all been funneled through the same line and then diverted out of the body scanner to the regular metal detector. but my point in that is that i counted over 12 people going through one line and at the people standing around not doing
anything. that leads into the questions ii just want to point out that in some airports i've seen a lot of personnel who are not actively engage in screening individuals. they may be actively engaged in other things. so i think understanding from your written testimony that we expected the checkpoints over the july 4 holiday travel period not to have significant delays but also learning from airports that some have significant longer delays than other airports. does tsa tracked in real time the wait times at all airports? based on congresses definition of tsn modernization act of 2018, and who guides, and individual airport airport how people are assigned? >> thank you for the question. so the answer is yes, we do track wait times across all of our airports which is how we are able to articulate what are
averages are and also track the number of what we would call excessive wait times. hopefully the point i made in my earlier comments is that for us we are very focused on making sure with all our lanes open to what our experience general is today is where having long wait times but every single one of our lanes is open and that tells us with adequate staffing in place and then it's over capacity constraint of an airport which is very common especially now because most of the volume we are saying is domestic travel. a lot of these relatively small airports with one or two or handful of lanes, everything is open early and we are still having these wait times. and on the ground are federal security directors around the country are responsible for working with the airport and their airlines to make sure we understand what the schedules are going to be and with adequate staffing in place. >> interesting, it hasn't been my experience through, again i'm not sure what size airports you
would consider them to be in towns of two or 300,000 people, if that's a small airport which leads to my next question, increasing number of passengers enrolled in tsa project with supposedly better enable tsa to utilize its screening resources as travel point continues to recover and i think for those of us that fly with absolutely seen travel volume increased dramatically. so mr. lajoye, is tsa promoting involvement in tsa precheck in smaller leisure markets that are experiencing extended wait times? or are you wanting people to do both, clear and tsa project depending upon the level of travel? >> yes, congresswoman, so the short entries were absolute promoting he is a pre-check. we've got over 400 and all that centers around the country, and our pre-pandemic daily enrollment was about 10,000
people a day is what we were tracking. we are at about 98% that now and, in fact, last month june was our busiest month for enrollment in the last five years. so we are please with the progress we're making. we still recognize there's a long way to go but by the end of this year we will have three enrollment provide for tsa pre-check precheck fecund all focus on increasing involvement which remains a priority of ours and we are starting to precheck volume increase along with the general passenger increases we're seeing about our airports. >> i really appreciate my tsa pre-check and not having to take off my shoes, so thank you so much. madam chairwoman, i yield back my time. >> thank you to the gentlelady. i now recognize mr. payne from new jersey will. >> thank you, madam chair, and once again thank you for this timely hearing.
mr. lajoye, my colleagues, the overall chairman of the committee and the chairwoman of the subcommittee, are truly diplomatic in their questioning with respect to tso pay. i have not had as long a tenure as a legislator or a diplomat, so i'm going to get right to the crux of this. you talk about a four year lag in a report and the secretary wanting to do it. why can't we do it? if we've known -- i been talking about the topic since the chairwoman has arrived here in congress. she's talked about it. the chairman has been on the committee since it started.
what is the hold up in bringing a commensurate salary to the job that is being done by tsos, the front line of security in this country? you know, it is common for the people doing the hardest work to be treated the worst, and i won't making analogies but can you answer, what has to be done? what can we do in congress to expedite this? >> i think our experience,, congressman, and again i appreciate your concern as well as the committee on this issue. i can't underscore enough how much of a priority this is for both secretary mayorkas as well as administrator pekoske. a part of the work we all back
to the secretary is identifying the cost. the work we did in the last congress on estimating some of the cost with this, there was a lot of work that still has to go into understanding this, had across the board a cost of moving the tsa workforce into what would be comparable to title five at around $3.8 billion. and so there's a lot of work and how to classify the positions so there's a lot of work that has to go into understanding what those total costs would be but generally that has been the biggest obstacle to getting these things done over many, many years. and again i will applaud the attention this is getting from both united states and the secretary, but at this point i think with respect to tso quite understand what those costs are i think is going to be crucial and actually fixing what are the
structural problems from addressing tso pay today. >> well, i would think by this point in time that that should fairly be resolved if we are talking about four years, five years and i've been talking about it for eight years. when do we get the results? when do we get to the end of it? it really is very concerning to me, that it feels like we're just kicking the can down the road, and these front-line workers are not being compensated to the levels and the degree of the importance of their job. would you consider tsa, let's see, as you know the partnership public service recently released rankings for best places to work in the federal government for 2020. tsa ranked last in pay, satisfaction as we just discussed. near the bottom in its handling
of covid-19, and now tsos are being assaulted at checkpoints across the country as previously stated. would you consider, with tsa consider conducting a weekly survey of how many tsos have been verbally harassed by passengers? though this may not rise to the level of physical violence and the government must be mindful of first amendment rights, there's no way that giving scouted at every day -- shouted at everyday every day n is to keep the flying public safe can be good for tso morale. >> i think the short answer is anything we can do to better understand what is happening with our officers i think were in support. as we talked earlier we have information on physical assaults but i'll emit to working with the staff to see if there's a way in which we can do some type of survey to better understand,
site from physical assaults, what level of verbal abuse our officers are experiencing every day. so i emit to working with the staff in getting an answer back to you. >> thank you, and i yield back the balance of my time. >> thank you very much to the gentleman from new jersey. i think were going to engage inn a short second round of questions, and i recognize myself first for these questions. mr. ondocin, you had indicated that you would be seeking our help as it relates to i guess federal air marshals perhaps retiring or something because they've been there for a long time. when do you anticipate asking us for help, and what does that help, in what form is that help supposed to come to you or need from you? >> right now we're putting our first class of federal air marshals desha landmarks into training in september. we haven't hired since 2017.
quite frankly we haven't had in need. our attrition rate has been pretty predictable. as we get into 23 and 24, i suspect a number of our federal air marshals will be nearing retirement. i don't know at what point how many of our federal land marshals seek retirement but i would seek to help down the road to ensure that we do have the ability to hire additional federal air marshals. >> thank you. i recognize that a marshals job in general has a bit of anxiety and is very stressful but i'm very concerned about the reports of poor mental health among the workforce. is the operation tempo currently expected reason? what is tsa doing to support the middle and physical well being of its air marshals? >> yes, ma'am, thank you for your question. you think the operational tempo of our federal air marshal is probably the most moderate tempo
we've had since probably 2016 or 2017. we have put several scheduling guidelines in place to ensure that we are balancing the scheduling for federal air marshals. we put a bunch of rules set in place since i think 2018 or 2019 to make sure we are utilizing our resources adequately and we are now putting an undue burden on our federal air marshals. i feel confident our scheduling, and i can't go over the actual numbers for the hours that our federal air marshals were flying at this point, madam chair, but it is significantly less than what it was i would say probably three or four years ago. >> can you speak to the second part of my question? >> yes, ma'am. as far as of the mental health, obviously that is a significant concern of mine. we have on board are psychologists. doctor target started, actually
she on board at july 4. i actually met her in atlantic city while doing some interaction with our training center and our employees. she is excited to be on board. she is totally working with our medical program section where she well review all of the records our previous history, what would dent in the past for mental illness and she will develop a plan moving forward. she is on board and we were utilizer resources both at the programmatic level and i imagine we would use at the field level as well. >> thank you. mr. lajoye, real quick question, follow on the whole issue of the firearms and baggage. i understand after january 6th insurrection that airlines in particular have made decisions regarding firearms in their
check baggage is and things of that nature, and wondering to what extent did the tsa engage in the discussions and offer guidance? and what, if any, authority do you think you need that you don't have right now to ban firearms in checked baggage? >> madam chair, we were certainly aware the airlines were taking fat, which was a policy position for them but it was really, i'd have to defer to the faa because that goes come the legal relationship that airlines and the passengers have goes under the dot and at the authorities on the contract of carriage requirements and so we were aware they were doing it but i would have to defer to faa for the legal relationship with how they do it. >> let me ask you that tsa's and you all are the folks the key people, that passengers and bad things happening from ginny on the planes. do you think you need the authority a particular law or
whatever to give you the authority to ban these firearms to being in checked baggage is? >> well, i think with respect to firearms and checked baggage we have pretty high level of complaint with that. our concern really is what is the prohibition is having the firearms in checked baggage and on the person whether you have access to it. what our message is is to get word out how to properly travel with firearms that would require them to put them in the checked baggage. to properly declare can make sure it's properly stored with emanation. our message is understand how to properly travel which would be never in carry-on, never on your person, but properly doing so in your checked luggage. >> one quick question. if you find an individual has a firearm on his person and that individual has ammunition, you refer that person to law
enforcement, right? >> it would be an immediate referral to law enforcement, immediate. >> does law enforcement we move that person from the line to get on the airplane? >> yes-man. the very first actions law-enforcement take, whether come again the rare occasions on the person or in their accessible property is safe and mitigate that. the remove it, take it to a safe place an order to do what to do to make sure that the public is not at risk. >> and is a person allowed on the plane? >> it would depend on the state or local laws and circumstances of the actual incident. >> thank you. i recognize mr. gimenez. well. >> thank you, madam chair. i have no further questions at this time, thank you. >> with your indulgence,
mr. gimenez, i'd like to ask another question about individuals who are taken by law enforcement when they are found with a loaded guns and unload on their possession. >> i would welcome that. actually that was my line of question to begin with. >> mr. lajoye, could you like expand on that just a little bit more? you keep saying the local law enforcement will mitigate it. i don't know what that really means in terms of what they will do. >> so when the first instance, our officers at the checkpoint are going to, they will see the image of the firearm in x-ray toddle or the ct machine. our procedures are they merely stop and they will notify law enforcement because we won't take possession of that bag. then local law person respond to the checkpoint, identify the passenger is, safely take
control of the bag that has the weapon in it. again to your . a lot of which are loaded and they will take it away from the checkpoint to begin their investigation. depending on what the state and local laws are that might be a check to see if there properly licensed to do it. in some cases irrespective of license is illegal to have, then issue an arrest at that point but it really does depend, activate immediately make sure there's no risk of take your security the checkpoint it becomes whatever the local laws are going to dictate, they would do at that point with respect to the individual and the weapon. >> does law enforcement separate the weapon from the ammunition, even if a person is licensed to have that weapon? >> i think in in a general se i'm confident in saying yes,
because again there in the action is to make sure there's no safety issue to the general public. so the very first things they're going to do is ensure that weapon is in a safe manner so they get carried away from the checkpoint. >> thank you very much. i would like to recognize the gentlelady's time nevada, is titus. i can give you a few more minutes than five because without a first and second render. >> thank you very much for indulging me to get it. after holding this hearing. representing -- nothing could be more important than this. we know a person so all thes when the land in the airport so we want to start with a positive experience. mr. lajoye, i would just tell you that i appreciate the tsa's staffing up and hiring more people to meet the summer demands. people have this pent-up desire to go out on holiday and we have seen that in las vegas. but the tsos at medicare and are telling me that hiring is going slowly. i certain support -- mccarron
-- get bonuses for hiring but what about the morel, people already there have been doing the hard work? is any way to reward those good officers? they are excreting burnout and now a senior people come in with a bonus. what can we do to help those who have been there on the front lines to all of this? >> thank you for the question and for recognizing that. one of the things we've done in addition to offering bonuses to attract new officers, we are giving existing officers our referral bonus if they have a friend who wants to work for tsa. we're also giving retention bonuses. we recognize where competing not only for new talent but to keep the talent that we have. we have also increased the award allocation of our field leaders here and so this is certainly a priority for us and, in fact, we have an entire suite of
incentives that we've offered for hard to hire airports that we can submit back and have sort of break that airport by airport for what they qualify for and everything we've been doing over the next last several months to make sure we get new officers and we keep the great, that we have. >> will do it. i am to hear that because they have definitely done the work and put themselves in danger to keep travelers and all of us safer so we don't want to forget them as we try to expand. speaking of putting endangered i'd like to ask you some more about the vaccine program. i know that y'all did a vaccinate our workforce which was great. what happened at mccarron was many of the tsos were worried about a cat vaccination by their families didn't and 11 multigenerational households and that's especially true for hispanic families. i wonder if there's any plan to encourage her to assist or to do
yourselves some kind of program like that to help in those who are hesitant communities and protect not just the worker but their whole family? >> again, thanks for that question and to recognize the importance of operation faxing our workforce. the tsa numbers presently which were augmented about a week ago, about 63% of tsa employees have gotten the first shot and a 45% are fully vaccinated. our chief medical officers have done an excellent job at making sure location by location if we have access on the programs that can vaccinate not on officers but also their family and we're getting that word out. again i would applaud all of our federal security directors around the country because they have diligently for a number of months now they have ensured they had local information on to
get out to the workforce of this remains a priority of ours, and jeff my commitment if there something more we can and should be doing to get the word out we will certainly do that. >> that's good. i hope you will work with the unions in the different airports, too, because sometimes people don't trust the government by the trust somebody they know, whether it's a church or a family member or a union that they belong to sigh hope you will work with them. speaking of the vaccination, since people are traveling, the rates are going up. certainly in las vegas and about our rates are going up. do you all have any plans to monitor that or do anything special in those hotspots to protect your members? >> it's something to your point that we have monitored from the very beginning. we are starting to see these delta variant. we are concerned by what we are seeing. officers are still on the front line so the manner in which we
were postured at the height of this pandemic with respect to taking measures, protector workforce is exactly what we're committed today. every single day we get reports on the number of our employees who are contracting covid-19. as we start seeing increase in certain locations we worked very diligently to make sure we are taking the proper steps to help protect our workforce. this remains a concern of ours and we will do so in the future. and again it's why it's important to us to continue to work for a close with cdc on this. at every level in the organization we are very closely coordinating within withe we are reliant on them to give us the very best information they have available. >> thank you. thank you, madam chair. i look forward to working with you and tsa to be sure our folks stay protected and our travelers, so thank you very much. i yield back. >> thank you very much.
i don't see there are any more questions for you. let me say thank you very much to both of you for your very valuable testimony, and for recognizing that we are very concerned and want to be very supportive of the needs of tsa and air marshals and the officers that are on the front lines. .. >> with regarding incidences. we'd ask that you respond expeditiously in writing to the questions. the chair reminds the members of the subcommittee that the record will remain open for 10 days. now without objection the