WASHINGTON, D.C. – Days after chairing his first Transportation Security subcommittee hearing, Rep. John Katko has introduced two bipartisan bills to enhance security measures at domestic airports and to ensure funding is used wisely by the Transportation Security Administration.
Katko’s inaugural Transportation Security subcommittee hearing, entitled “A Review of Access Control Measures at Our Nation’s Airports,” was held this past Tuesday, February 3.
The hearing followed reports of several high profile security breaches at domestic airports. Specifically, the hearing examined security programs designed to mitigate potential insider threats from airport employees, TSA personnel and others who have access to sterile areas of domestic airports.
The bipartisan bills introduced by Katko are designed to enhance airport security measures in a cost-effective manner. H.R. 720, the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act, directs the Department of Homeland Security to undertake a variety of activities to enhance security and communication at domestic airports, specifically requiring TSA to verify that all airports have appropriate security response plans.
The bill is named after the TSA agent who tragically lost his life in the line of duty in a November 2013 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport.
H.R. 719, the TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act, ensures that funding is used wisely by TSA.
It would require that TSA Criminal Investigators spend at least 50 percent of their time investigating apprehending, or detaining individuals suspected of committing a crime.
Currently, TSA does not necessitate that its criminal investigators meet this requirement, despite being considered law enforcement officers and receiving premium pay.
“Threats to our nation’s transportation systems are constantly evolving, and it is critical that Congress act to preempt catastrophes at our nation’s airports by strengthening security protocols in the most cost-effective manner possible.” said Katko. “My subcommittee hearing earlier this week stemmed from security breaches in which loaded firearms were brought onto commercial airplanes by employees with airport access privileges. In light of that hearing, these bills provide a thoughtful response to create safer airports across our country by improving upon nationwide security protocols and facilitating commonsense TSA reform to save taxpayer dollars.”
At Tuesday’s hearing, witnesses from the airport and airline industries, TSA and the FBI were questioned about potential ways to bolster access control measures to deter and prevent future security breaches, including 100% employee screenings, increased random screenings, expanding the list of disqualifying crimes for employees and more frequent criminal history records checks.