Defense & National Security

TSA fails to fully implement screening procedures for service members

TSA fails to fully implement screening procedures for service members
PHOTO by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs.

Only two of 362 required airports have met the July 2 deadline to expedite security screening measures for uniformed military personnel and their families. The Transportation Security Administration, in partnership with the Department of Defense, was given 180 days to comply with the bill — they are now over a week past due.

“I have to tell you that I think you are in violation of the law,” Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Security subcommittee, told the TSA Wednesday.

The two airports complying are Ronald Reagan Washington national airport and Seattle-Tacoma international airport. At these locations, TSA created what they call a PreCheck program. By showing a valid Common Access Card (CAC) and boarding pass, active military members can move to a designated PreCheck lane where they can leave on their combat boots, belt and light jackets.

Rep. Cravaack initiated the bill, which he says shows service members respect and speeds the wait for civilians. The “Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of the Armed Forces Act,” was enacted January 3.

The Common Access Card is a concern, however, since the TSA requires that members show their card — a measure not included in the legislation. The bill simply stipulates that a uniformed service member “presents documentation indicating official orders for air transportation departing from a primary airport.”

The use of CACs are an important security measure in order to verify identification, explained witness Todd M. Rosenblum, principal deputy assistant secretary for Homeland Defense.

Rosenblum assured the subcommittee that they have created additional ways to implement the law, but proposed discussing them in a private briefing so as not to “inform our advisories.”

Ranking member Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) noted 10 progressive changes made by TSA to security checkpoints, including screening modifications for the elderly, children under 12 and passengers with medical conditions.

Despite this work for the public and her belief that TSA has acted with every good intention, she stated the general public still wants to know when the expedited plans will be carried out for the military and their families.

Witness Chris McLaughlin, assistant administrator of Security Operations at TSA, said their intent is to comply, however, he admitted to the panel that there has been little change since the bill was enacted.

“This is not an option,” Rep. Cravaack warned, “… the signature right here is the president of the United States.”

The TSA has been given until July 23 to report back to the subcommittee with details on how they are making tangible progress in compliance to the law.

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