On Bill to Fund Homeland Security Department, Durbin Includes Amendments Zeroing in on TSA Security at Chicago Airports
Following passage of legislation in the Senate Committee, Durbin wrote to TSA Administrator about need to make PreCheck more accessible
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that two of his amendments to help reduce wait times at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints in airports around the country were approved as part of the FY2017 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill. Specifically, Durbin’s amendments would:
· Direct TSA to make PreCheck more accessible by expanding the number of office hours available (including the possibility of weekend hours), particularly in densely populated areas like Chicago, potentially increase staffing levels and look at ways to lower the cost.
· Direct TSA to consider passenger volume and risk assessments when deploying the 50 additional canine teams so that major airports like Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway are priorities. U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) cosponsored this amendment.
Following passage of the bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee of which Durbin is a member, Durbin wrote to TSA Administrator Neffenger about his concerns that staffing, existing locations and hours, and flexibility for TSA PreCheck applicants has not kept pace with the significant increase in the popularity of the program.
“In the Chicago metro area, there are currently no TSA PreCheck appointments available at any location in the Chicago metro area with a wait time less than 45 days or on weekends. Many hopeful applicants have reported waiting hours for a walk-in appointment only to be turned away at close of business,” he wrote. “I urge TSA to work with its contractors to ramp up staff at PreCheck appointment locations, increase the number of PreCheck locations during peak travel seasons, and provide additional flexibility for applicants by providing back-to-back appointments and extended hours to accommodate more working families.”
In addition to Durbin’s amendments the FY2017 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill provides increased funding for TSA screener personnel, compensation, and benefits, allocates an additional 50 canine units nationwide to increase expedited passenger throughput and security and allows TSA to hire more screeners above and beyond the current congressionally mandated cap of 45,000.
Text of today’s letter is below.
May 26, 2016
The Honorable Peter Neffenger
Transportation Security Administration
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
601 South 12th Street
Arlington, VA 20598
Dear Administrator Neffenger:
One of the ways we can help reduce long lines at airports across the country, including the two international airports in Chicago—O’Hare and Midway International airports, is to encourage more people to sign up for PreCheck. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has encouraged travelers to enroll in PreCheck, among taking other actions, to reduce congestion at airport security checkpoints and provide expedited screening without compromising the safety and security of passengers. I support this effort and I have also urged travelers to sign up for TSA PreCheck.
In order to ensure that the TSA can manage increased demand for PreCheck enrollment, I included an amendment in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill to provide more accessibility for PreCheck applicants. As a follow up to this amendment, I request that TSA work with its private contractors to ensure there are enough staff at PreCheck appointment locations, open additional PreCheck centers, if necessary, and encourage the busiest appointment locations to extend their hours to increase flexibility to accommodate families who wish to enroll during peak summer travel months.
There has been an enormous influx of TSA PreCheck applications and enrollments in recent weeks. Last week, TSA PreCheck enrollments reached a record number of 15,000 enrollments in one day. PreCheck applicants across the country have reported waiting weeks, or even months, to schedule an appointment.
In the Chicago metro area, there are currently no TSA PreCheck appointments available at any location in the Chicago metro area with a wait time less than 45 days or on weekends. Many hopeful applicants have reported waiting hours for a walk-in appointment only to be turned away at close of business. I am concerned that staffing, existing locations and hours, and flexibility for applicants has not kept pace with the significant increase in the popularity of the program.
With checkpoint volume expected to rise to above 2.3 million travelers by mid-July, it is essential to make it easier and faster for passengers to apply and enroll in TSA PreCheck to further prevent long delays at security checkpoints. I urge TSA to work with its contractors to ramp up staff at PreCheck appointment locations, increase the number of PreCheck locations during peak travel seasons, and provide additional flexibility for applicants by providing back-to-back appointments and extended hours to accommodate more working families.
I appreciate you visiting Chicago last week and meeting with me at O’Hare International Airport to discuss my concerns about long security lines at both Midway and O’Hare International airports. I look forward to continuing to work with you to help reduce security lines at U.S. airports and ensure the success of the TSA PreCheck Program.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator
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