Skip to main content

tv   TSA Officials Testify on COVID-19 Summer Travel  CSPAN  July 24, 2021 11:00am-12:15pm EDT

11:00 am
>> buckeye broadband supports c-span as a public service along with these other television providers, giving you a front row seat to democracy. >> tsa officials testified on the covid-19 pandemic and the summer travel season. they also discussed an increase in passengers assaulting airline staff and recruitment and retention of federal air marshals. from the house homeland security subcommittee, this runs an hour, 10 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
11:01 am
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
11:02 am
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
11:03 am
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
11:04 am
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.
11:05 am
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
11:06 am
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
11:07 am
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
11:08 am
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
11:09 am
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
11:10 am
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.
11:11 am
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.
11:12 am
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.
11:13 am
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.
11:14 am
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
11:15 am
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.
11:16 am
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.
11:17 am
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,
11:18 am
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.
11:19 am
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.
11:20 am
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
11:21 am
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
11:22 am
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
11:23 am
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
11:24 am
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?
11:25 am
>> 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
11:26 am
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
11:27 am
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
11:28 am
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.
11:29 am
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
11:30 am
beginning of the pandemic charting this and >> quick question before i time is up to you. i recognize the number of federal air marshals that you all employ. i understand it cannot be discussed. given the recent increases in disturbances, do you have enough air marshals, at the current rate at which they are on board and able to respond to incidences? >> at this point in time, our mission has not changed. prior to covid-19. the marshals are still out providing in flight security. as far as the amount of air marshals over the next few
11:31 am
years, a large portion of our workforce entered after 9/11 and will come on the 20th year anniversary. >> thank you. my time is expired. i will take a round of questions regarding air marshals and their well-being. the type of scheduling that takes place. i would like to yield to the making member. >> thank you. what happened to -- happens to passengers who are carrying firearms on the personal or carry-on bags? >> when tsa detects a firearm on the x-ray, we will notify law enforcement. everything stops. it is a public safety concern.
11:32 am
85% of the weapons we encounter are loaded. often haphazardly thrown into a bag. our first priority is to allow law enforcement to take control of that situation depending on what the state or local laws may be, it could be anything from an arrest, placing the weapon in a sieve location, allowing the passenger to return it, the first insist for tsa notifies state and local law enforcement. >> there is no federal law prohibiting somebody transporting a firearm? trying to get a firearm onto an airplane? >> there is a number of civil statutes that would prohibit somebody from bringing in a weapon on board the aircraft. following the law enforcement actions, tsa investigates every one of these circumstances for a civil penalty.
11:33 am
>> not a criminal penalty? >> some people may have a firearm in a carry-on. we understand that. it is a -- it is not a criminal ability to do this. >> we have to defer to the doj on that. the intent element is not something that is in a federal or criminal statute. no aggravating incidences may be present, depending on the circumstances. it is very much dependent on visual circumstances of the case. -- individual circumstances of the case. >> we have had circumstances where we have found them on the person. the predominance of these being in a bag. the most often cited reason is
11:34 am
they forgot it is in there. we have had a circumstances where we discovered these on their person. >> would you say the majority of those who have the gun on them have a concealed weapons permit? >> they think it is ok because they have a permit? >> is something we encounter. -- it is something we encounter. we see thousands of weapons a year. we would roll back to see how many of those cases of those have a concealed carry permit. the way we focus on this is two fold. we focus on enforcement action. we added six aggravating weapons . if it is loaded, if there is a round that is chambered, if they are an employee of security as an aggravating factor. the most cited reason is they
11:35 am
forgot it was in there. we have put the word on how they can properly transport weapons if they travel. >> what about somebody who has tried to do this two times? you have a database of people you have seen trying to get through tsa with a firearm and try to do it again? >> our numbers, the number of repeat offenders are about 6%. about a handful of those who go beyond two times. the penalties get quite severe for repeat offenders. that is the maximum civil penalty. depending on the circumstances, and may result in criminal penalty as well. we do have that information. >> is it a federal crime to
11:36 am
bring a firearm to the airplane? >> depending on the circumstances it may. the state is lacking in the federal criminal statute. have to defer to counsel, the element of intent -- i have to defer to general counsel, the element of intent. and may or may not result -- it may or may not result in a charge. >> if someone started on monday, i personally was -- did you guys change something? was it a really heavy travel day? >> i think what you are recognizing is we are seeing an exceedingly increasing number of passenger volume. 117 airports are already -- in
11:37 am
2019. our experience is when we have these wait times, every one of our lanes is capacity constraints. sometimes our safeco security directors are -- safety security directors are -- >> your time is expired. chairman thompson. >> thank you. let me to think the witnesses for their testimony. -- thank the witnesses for their testimony. it is a joy -- mr. lejoy, are you satisfied with the uptick in travel that tsa will be able to accommodate.
11:38 am
going forward, to address this? >> i am. we have hired 4700 officers. we have brought on almost 500 officers, we are on pace to meet the 6000 number that we note we need -- know we need through the summer. we are facing the same challenges that many are in competing for talent. it has been a focus of ours. while we are confident we have plans in place for the summer, as business travel continues as well as international travel picks up, we are going to have to continue working with the airlines to make sure we have continued to have adequate resources.
11:39 am
>> as you compete for talent, do you make analysis of white tso -- why tsos leave tsa? >> what our internal scores show us is that our officers are dedicated. and they leave because of pay. -- they leave because of pay. there are other organizations that would love to have a tsa employee or for them. they are leaving because of inadequate pay. >> a lot of us have advocated to treat tso like we do the majority of other federal employees. if we are losing the people because of pay, why has
11:40 am
administrative or secretary fix this? what is the problem with the fix? >> we are aware of your concerns. this has been a priority for the secretary since he came into office. it has been a priority for the last four years. it has directed us provide back to him a specific plan that addresses the structural problems with tso pay. also with collective bargaining and -- procedures be we are happy to provide a briefing back. >> when is it supposed to be back to the secretary? >> the beginning of september. >> my concern is we are losing
11:41 am
good people. it is a matter of pay. we do not pay people like their fellow employees. is that an authority you lack? from what i hear from everyone who has been on the call from this hearing so far, they want to fix it. if there are problems, we will go forward. most of the airports -- most of us go through airports every week. the number one issue we hear from those tsos is i like my job, but as soon as i get my time in i will transform -- transfer because i cannot afford to feed my family.
11:42 am
do federal air marshals currently have all of the necessary authority to address all issues around airline or passenger security? >> we do. they have authority on title 49, they have the same authority that any other federal law enforcement officer has. >> thank you. if an issue around a passenger having an issue with one of the employees on the plane in the air, that marshall has the authority to intercede? >> yes.
11:43 am
the crime is committed on board by a -- they have the authority to enforce the law and make an arrest. >> if it is an issue around a mask or any other issue? if this passenger was being unresponsive to the directions of the staff, that air marshal on the current authority can intercede? >> the general assignment is expired, we are going to allow you to answer that question. >> flight attendants are trained , we offer crew members as of the fence. if and in compliance with a
11:44 am
mask turns into an assault, our air marshal will take appropriate action. >> thank you. thank you a madam chair for being so gracious with your time. >> the chairman is right about the level of pay. being an incentive to stay or go. it is more than the pay, it is the protect ability of the regular increases. it is the pension and benefits that are afforded to those individuals who are under title v we are interested in joining equality under this opportunity. miss miller meeks. >> i want to thank the gentleman for their testimony.
11:45 am
i will pontificate a little bit. members of congress to travel a lot. i go back to my district in iowa every opportunity i have. i find it keeps me humble, my constituents bring up things to me that end up becoming resolutions or letters. when i travel, i got her a lot of airports that -- the past two airports i've gone through the tsa pre-check line has not been good lysed. we have been diverted out of the body scanner to the regular metal detector. i counted over 12 people going through one line. other people standing around not doing anything. that leads into my question. in several airports, i have seen a lot of personnel who are not
11:46 am
actively engaged in screening. for be actively engaged in other things. -- they may be actively engaged in other things could we expect the checkpoint travel. to not have significant delays. some had a significant other delays. does tsa track the wait times at all airports? based on congress'definition -- individual airports how people are assigned? >> thank you for that question. the answer is yes. we track wait times across all airports. which is how we are able to articulate what our averages are. we also track the number of excessive wait times.
11:47 am
for us, we are very focused on making sure we have all of our lanes open. we are having a long wait times. every single one of our lanes are open. that tells us we have adequate staffing in place. that capacity constraint of an airport is very common, especially with the volume we see in domestic travel. it could be a handful of lanes, every lane is open. we are still having these wait times. on the ground, our federal security directors are responsible for working with airports and airlines to make sure we understand schedules and that we have adequate staffing. >> it has not been my experience -- i am not sure what size airport you would consider them to be. which leads to my next question,
11:48 am
increasing the number of passengers enrolled in tsa pre-check. it would enable tsa to utilize its screening resources as travel volume recovers. for those of us who fly, we have seen trouble volume increased or medically. -- dramatically. would you look at extending tsa project into smaller leisure markets? are you wanting people to do prickly and project pending upon their level of travel -- tsa clear and tsa pre-check depending upon their level of travel? >> are pre-pandemic daily enrollment was about 10,000 people a day. we are about 90% at that now -- 98% now.
11:49 am
it was the busiest month for enrollment in the past five years. we are pleased with the progress we are making. by the end of this year, we will have three enrollment providers for tsa pre-check. this remains a priority of ours. we are sitting -- seeing protect volume -- tsa pre-check volume increase. >> i appreciate not having to take off my shoes. i yield back my time. >> thank you. i now recognize the representative from new jersey. >> thank you for this timely hearing. my colleague, the overall chairman of the committee, are
11:50 am
truly diplomatic in their questioning with respect to tso pay. i have not had as long a tenure as a legislator or diplomat. i am going to get right to the crux of this. you talk about four year lag in report, the secretary wanting to do it. why cannot we do it? -- why can't we do it? we have been talking about the topic since the chairwoman arrived here in congress. she has talked about it the chairman has been on the committee since it started. what is the hold up in bringing a salary to the job that is being done by tsos, the front
11:51 am
line of security? it is common for the people doing the hardest work to be treated the worst. i will not make any analogies. can you answer what has to be done? what can we do in congress to expedite this? >>our experience, i appreciate your concern as well as the committee on this issue. i cannot underscore enough how much of a priority this is for both secretary and administrator. we have been identifying the cost. at the work we did in the last congress -- the work we did in the last congress looked at the
11:52 am
cost. it had across the system, a cost of moving the tsa workforce into title v. it would be around $3.8 billion. there is a lot of work on how we classify the positions. generally, that has been the biggest obstacle to getting these things done. i will applaud the attention this is getting. at this point, with respect to tso pay, understanding what those costs are are crucial in fixing one of the structural problems. >> i would think by this point in time that this should be resolved. if we are talking about four
11:53 am
years, five years, i am talking about it for eight years. when do we get the results? it really is concerning to me. it feels like we are kicking the can down the road. these front-line workers are not being compensated to the levels and degree of the importance of their job. would you consider tsa, the partnership of public service rankings for the best places to work. tsa ranked last in pay, satisfaction, near the bottom in its handling of covid-19. now tsos are being assaulted at checkpoints across the country.
11:54 am
would you consider conducting a weekly survey of how many tsos have been verbally harassed by passengers? this may not rise to the level of school violence, the government -- physical violence, the government must be aware of first amendment rights. but people are getting shredded at every day when your mission is to keep the flying public safe. -- shouted at every day when your mission is to keep the flying public safe. >> anything we can do to better understand with our officers -- we have information about physical assaults. i will commit to working with the step if there is a way in which we can do some type of survey what level of verbal abuse our officers are experiencing. i will get an answer back.
11:55 am
>> thank you. i yield back. >> thank you. we are going to engage in a short second round of questions. i recognize myself first. you had indicated that you would be seeking our help through that as it relates to federal -- as it relates to federal air marshals retiring. when you anticipate asking us for help? in what form is that help to come to you? >> we are putting our first air marshals into training in september. we have not hired since 2017. we have not had -- our rate has been pretty protectable.
11:56 am
as we get into 2023, i expect a number of our air marshals will be nearing retirement. i do not know what number of our air marshals will be retiring. i would ensure that we do have the ability to hire additional federal air marshals. >> i understand the air marshal's job in general has anxiety and is stressful. i am concerned about the reports of poor mental health among the workforce. as the operation currently expected -- is the operation currently expected to support the physical and mental well-being of its air marshals. ? >> the operational temple -- tempo is the most moderate tempo we have had since 2016. we have put several scheduled
11:57 am
guidelines in place to ensure that we are balancing the scheduling of our federal air marshals. we make sure that we are utilizing our resources adequately and not putting undue burden on our federal air marshals. i feel confident that our scheduling, i can do over the actual numbers. -- go over the actual numbers. it is less than it was three or four years ago. >> can you get to the second part of my question? >> mental health, that is a significant concern of mind. we have on boarded our psychologist, they started on july 4. i met her in atlantic city.
11:58 am
she is on boarded, she is working with our medical program section. she will review all of the records of what we have done in the past for mental illness. she will develop a plan moving forward. she is on board, we will utilize her resources. >> thank you. follow-up on the issue of the firearms, i understand that after the january 6 insurrection, airlines have made decisions regarding firearms in their check packages -- bags. to what extent do the tsa engage in those discussion and offer
11:59 am
guidance? what, if any, authority do you think you need if you do not have right now to ban firearms on checked baggage? >> we are certainly aware that the airlines were taking that policy position. i would have to defer to the faa, that goes against the legal relationship that underlines the -- requirements we are aware of. i would have to defer to the faa for how they did that. >> let me ask you about tsa since you promise to keep people -- passengers and bad things happening from getting on the plane. you need more authority to give you the authority to ban these firearms from being in checked baggage? >> i think with respect to the
12:00 pm
firearms and check baggage, we have a high level of compliance. our concern is what is the prohibition, the firearms in checked baggage and on their person. what our messagewe want them toh firearms and probably declare it, properly stored. so our messages understand how to properly travel with never on your person, never in your carry-on, but properly doing so. >> if you find an individual has a firearm on his person, and that individual has ammunition, can you refer that person to law enforcement? >> it would be immediate referral. >> would law-enforcement remove that person from the line to get
12:01 pm
onto the airplane? >> yes, ma'am. on the rare occasions if they have it on their person or property, they remove it, take it to a safe place to make sure that the public is not at risk. >> is that person allowed on the plane? >> it would depend on the state or local law and the actual instance. >> thank you. i recognize mr. jimenez. >> thank you. i have no further questions at this time. >> with your indulgence, i would like to ask another question about individuals who are found
12:02 pm
with loaded or unloaded guns on their possession. >> i would welcome that. >> ok. could you expound on that just a little bit more? you keep saying local law enforcement will mitigate it. i don't know what that means in terms of what they will do. >> in the first instance, ma'am, our officers are going to see the image of the firearm in the x-ray on all the machines. they will notify law enforcement. we will not take possession of that. local law enforcement will respond, identify who the passenger is, safely take control of the bag that has the weapon, a lot of which are loaded, and they will take it away from the checkpoint to
12:03 pm
begin their investigation. depending on what the state and local laws are that might be a check to see if they are properly licensed. the respective of license -- i rrespective of license, some places it is just illegal. they will make sure there is no risk of safety or security and it will become what the local laws would dictate what they do at that point. >> does law enforcement separate the weapon from the ammunition even if a person is licensed to have that weapon? >> i am confident in saying yes, ma'am. their immediate action is to make sure there are no safety actions to the general public. the first thing they are going to do is ensure that people are safe. >> thank you very much.
12:04 pm
i would like to recognize the gentlelady from nevada. i can give you a few more minutes. >> thank you very much for indulging me. and for holding this hearing representing a city like las vegas. nothing could be more important than this. we know a person's holiday begins when they land in the airport so we want to start with the positive experiments. mr. lajoy, i appreciate the tsa's staffing and hiring more people to meet the summer demand. people have this pent up desire to get out and go on holidays and we have seen that in las vegas. the tsa at mccarran is giving bonuses for hiring but what about the morale of the people who have been doing the hard
12:05 pm
work? is there any way to reward those officers because they are experiencing burnout and now they say new people coming in with a bonus. what can we do to help those who have been there on the front lines through all of this? >> well, thank you, ma'am, for the question and recognizing that. one of the things we have done in addition to offering bonuses to attract new officers is giving the existing officers a referral bonus. we are also giving retention bonuses and offering to be recognized that we are competing not only for new talent but to keep the talent that we have. we have also increased the allocations of our field leaders. certainly a priority for us and in fact, we have an entire suite of incentives we have offered that we can submit back with a breakdown airport by airport of
12:06 pm
what they qualify for and the last things we have been doing these several months to make sure we keep the great talent we have. >> good. i am glad to hear that because they have definitely been at work and putting themselves in danger to keep travelers and all of us safer so we do not want to forget them as we try to expand. speaking of danger, i would like to ask you about the vaccine program. i know that y'all did a vaccinate our workforce which was great. what happened at mccarran was that many of the tsos were worried that they got the vaccination but their families did not and they live in multi-general families. i wonder if there is any plan to encourage or do some kind of program like that to help those more hesitant communities and
12:07 pm
protect not just the worker but their whole family. >> thank you for that question, ma'am, and recognizing the importance of operation vaccinate our workforce. the tsa's numbers, about one week ago, 63% of tsa employees had gotten their first shot and about 45% are fully vaccinated. our chief medical officer has really done an excellent job making sure that location by location that we have access to the programs that can vaccinate not only our officers but our family. i would applaud all of our federal security directors because they have, for a number of months now, had local information to get out of the workforce. this remains a priority and you have my commitment that
12:08 pm
if there is something more we can do, we will certainly do that. >> that's good and i hope you will work with the unions in the different airports too. sometimes people don't trust the government but they trust somebody they know whether it is a church or a family member or a union they belong to. i hope you will work with them. speaking of vaccinations, since people are traveling, the rates are going up. certainly in las vegas and nevada. do you have any plans to monitor that or do anything special in those hotspots to protect your members? >> to your point something we have monitored from the beginning we are seeing the new delta variant. we are very concerned by what we are seeing. our officers are still on the front lines so the manner in which we were postured at the height of the pandemic with taking our workforce is exactly where we are committed today.
12:09 pm
every day we get reports on the number of employees who are contracting covid-19 and as we start to see an increase in several locations we will diligently make sure we are taking the proper steps to protect our workforce. this remains a concern of ours and will be in the future. it is quite important for us to work closely with the cdc on this. at every level we are closely coordinating with them because we are reliant on them to give us the best information they have available. >> thank you and thank you, madam chair. i look forward to working with you in the tsa to make sure our folks stay protected. 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 valuable testimony and for recognizing
12:10 pm
that we are very concerned and want to be supportive of the needs of tsa and the air marshals and the officers on the front lines because we do respect the fact that they have been there in the midst of all of this during the entire time. please know that we want to make sure that congress is doing everything it can to let them understand and appreciate that we appreciate them and support the things they do. the members of the subcommittee may have additional questions for you. as a matter of fact, we did ask you for information regarding incidents. we ask that you respond expeditiously in responding to those questions. members of the subcommittee and committee will be open for 10 days. without objection the subcommittee stands adjourned. thank you so much for your participation. ♪ announcer: c-span is your
12:11 pm
unfiltered view of government. we are funded by these television companies and more, including medco. ♪ midco supports c-span as a public service along with these other television providers. giving you a front row seat to democracy. ♪ >> t minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 3, 2, 1. [engine or roaring] roaring]
12:12 pm
>> new shepard has cleared the tower. go jeff, go mark, go wally, go oliver. announcer: blue origin fluids new shepard rocket on tuesday. the first flight with people on board. amazon founder jeff bezos started the company as part of the crew. tonight at 8:00 eastern we show the rocket going up 66 miles at three times the speed of sound, the separation, in the upper right landing, followed by the news conference with the crew. all tonight here on c-span. ♪ announcer: sunday on q&a, washington post finance columnist michelle single terry on her book. >> it is not a matter of whether
12:13 pm
there is going to be another economic crisis but when. we want to set you up for the next crisis. it is not all about covid but what recession is going to come down the road. it may be long, it may be short, but life is going to happen and i need you to prepare now. i do a lot of financial seminars in my community and it is so hard to get people to save and prepare when they are doing well because they are doing well. they don't think tomorrow is going to have an issue. if you need to save, you need to do that, oh, i'm going to get to it. everybody is in frugal mode and ready to do it but that is too late. the time to do it is when you have the resources, when you have the ability to cut. it is easy to cut when you cannot pay for anything or things are shut down. so i wanted to say let's
12:14 pm
prepare, let's be like that fireman or firewoman ready for the next job. they hope it won't happen but they are going to be prepared. announcer: finance columnist michelle singletary sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on q&a. you can also listen to q&a as a podcast wherever you get your podcasts. announcer: climate researchers testified before a house science subcommittee about the impact of certain weather-related events on public health. lawmakers heard about ways to address extreme heat, drought, and flooding, with upgraded infrastructure and emerging technology to more accurately predict weather patterns. this runs an hour and half. . >> good morning and welcome to today's environment subcommite

11 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on