Entries in TSA (5)


TSA Head: Possible Hiring Freeze Before Sequester Furlough

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- We’ve heard the doomsday scenarios of how automatic spending cuts from the sequester might impact airports: Travel Security Administration (TSA) workers could be furloughed, stretching security resources thin and leading to nightmarish lines and long waits at airport security checkpoints.

But the head of the TSA has offered a glimmer of hope, testifying on Capitol Hill that the agency might look to a hiring freeze before furloughs if the sequester goes into effect.

“The bottom line is, for us: We have been watching the whole sequester discussion closely and assessing what impact it will have for us,” TSA head John Pistole told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Wednesday. “We’re doing other things before furloughing, so for example, we would look at a hiring freeze.”

Federal employees being furloughed as part of the sequester must be notified at least a month in advance, according to guidelines from the Office of Personnel Management. That means if the sequester goes into effect this week, we could see a shortage of airport security officers starting in April, when TSA would furlough its 50,000 employees for up to seven days and cut back on overtime.

But if the TSA enacts a hiring freeze first, before resorting to furloughs, that could postpone the nightmare scenario Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned against, writing in a letter to lawmakers, “Funding and staffing reductions will increase wait times at airports, affect security between land ports of entry, affect CBP’s [Customs and Border Patrol] ability to collect revenue owed to the Federal Government, and slow screening and entry programs for those traveling into the United States....The Transportation Security Administration would reduce its frontline workforce, which would substantially increase passenger wait times at airport security checkpoints.”

Additionally, the FAA identified smaller airports that could take big hits if the sequester goes into effect -- including 72 that could eliminate their overnight shifts and 238 air traffic control facilities that could be shut down altogether, Pistole said.

If the TSA implements a hiring freeze, its length would depend on how long the sequester is, Pistole said. He noted the TSA would still continue to process job applications during the freeze, so when the sequester comes and goes, the agency can be in a position to hire later this spring or summer.

The longer the sequester drags on, the more TSA will feel its impacts -- and it’s those busy summer travel months that will need the most security resources to keep things moving smoothly.

“When you think about holiday travel, and with spring breaks and summer travel coming up, the impact would be more noticeable, I think, longer-term as we look at our ability to surge resources to those busiest times,” Pistole said.

Neither TSA nor DHS responded to calls about a timeline for when the hiring freeze or furloughs might occur under the sequester.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday continued to express frustration about the automatic, across-the-board cuts set to go into effect Friday -- and the partisan bickering that got them there.

“I don’t agree with it as a policy tool, or any other way. It’s the wrong thing to do,” said Rep. John Carter, D-Texas, chair of the Homeland Security subcommittee. “[In] my view, it’s crude, pointless -- reminds us all of the importance that we need to follow regular order in everything we do.”

Ranking House Appropriations Committee member Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., agreed.

“It’s disheartening that the majority has rejected Democrats’ calls to prevent sequestration by closing tax loopholes and reigning in the growth of future spending,” she said. “But I’ve always been an optimist, and I do hope reasonable people, such as those serving on this committee and others, can begin to work together to resolve this impasse that does such damage to its economy.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rand Paul in Pat-Down Standoff With TSA in Nashville

ABC News(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told his communications director Monday morning he was being detained by TSA at the Nashville airport.

The Twitter account associated with Paul staffer Moira Bagley, @moirabagley, tweeted around 10 a.m., ET, “Just got a call from @senrandpaul. He’s currently being detained by TSA in Nashville.”

A TSA spokesman disputed that Paul was ever “detained.” But he was not granted access to the secure area of the airport. The TSA version of events is that Paul was not detained, but triggered an alarm during routine airport screening and refused to complete the screening process (pat-down) in order to resolve the issue.  Paul was escorted out of the screening area by local law enforcement.

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“When an irregularity is found during the TSA screening process, it must be resolved prior to allowing a passenger to proceed to the secure area of the airport,” according to an official statement released by TSA. “Passengers who refuse to complete the screening process cannot be granted access to the secure area in order to ensure the safety of others traveling.”

Paul’s office confirmed he set off an airport security full-body scanner “on a glitch,” according to a spokesman. The Paul staffer said TSA agents would not let Paul walk back through the body scanner and were demanding a full body pat-down.

The Paul spokesman said his office called TSA administrator John Pistole about the incident.

The issue of pat-downs has been an important one to Paul, the son of libertarian-leaning Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, who is extremely critical of the procedures. Sen. Paul brought this issue up at a hearing earlier this year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senators Upset with TSA and DHS over Airline Screening

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- There was a rare moment of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill Wednesday when members of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed their frustrations about airline screening procedures to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, with Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., calling some of the TSA procedures “baloney.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, raised the issue of passengers not wanting to pass through advanced imaging technology (AIT) screening machines.

“I’ve been getting a lot of complaints lately about the checks…as you pass through the monitoring stations, where people don’t want to go through the X-ray station, and so they line up on the one side where just the open-door station is,” Hatch said.  “And some of your people force them to go over to go through the X-ray station. And then, if they say, ‘Well, I don’t want to do that, I’d rather go through the other one,’ they say, ‘Well, you can do it but then you’re going to have to be patted down.’”

Napolitano attempted to explain to the senators why the pat-down procedures were necessary.

“I can say the answer in one word, and that’s Abdulmutallab,” Napolitano said in reference to underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who pleaded guilty to terrorism offenses in Detroit last week.

“Others like him who have been trying to bring explosives onto planes, or other material that shouldn’t be on a plane…does not have a metal component -- and, therefore, the magnetometer won’t pick it up,” Napolitano said.  “And so that’s why you see the pat-down procedure has been adjusted to reflect -- I’m sorry -- you know, that plain reality. We actually have been looking nationwide at how we can move people through -- we handle about 1.5 to 1.8 million passengers a day in the U.S. air system -- things that we can do to make it easier for passengers to process through the system, and we continue to look for ways.”

“Sometimes, you get the impression they almost want to make you miss your plane because you have to go through the pat-down,” Leahy groused to Napolitano.

“Children having to go through,” he added. “There’s almost this arrogant disregard for real Americans who have to put up with this baloney."

“I do provide a lot of amusement for people who are taking cellphone pictures of me getting a pat-down,” Leahy told Napolitano. “When I do it, the TSA agent tells them, ‘Well, you know there’s a law against taking photographs.’ Of course, there is no such law. And it’s just one more example. You know, we’ll go through it and we’ll do it and all of that, and maybe miss your plane because they’re annoyed that you actually want to protect your rights. But it’s a shame because you have some very nice people working at TSA, but boy, oh boy.”

“I do have a great crew working at TSA. But I appreciate these concerns,” Napolitano said.

“At the very top, there’s a disconnect with reality,” Leahy said.

“I think we can continue to look into it and to improve. And we will work with you. We’ll look into your complaints,” Napolitano told the senators.  “I understand that and why people get concerned and frustrated when they travel. But I also think we have the safest aviation system in the world, and there’s a reason for that.”

“I always comply, but I’m just saying -- and I don’t ever raise a fuss about it, nor would I,” Hatch told Napolitano, “but it seems to me…maybe I look like a terrorist. I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I’m really very kind and loving, you know.”

“Senator, I will give you that,” Napolitano told Hatch. “You look kind and loving, and we should be able to handle this and also look at some of your [concerns]."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Convenes 'Inter-Agency' Call on Holiday Threats

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House convened an inter-agency conference call Friday to review the steps taken to respond to holiday threats this season. It was one year ago that Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to explode a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The president was not on the coordination call Friday, led by counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan.  On the call was Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Clapper, FBI Director Mueller, NCTC Director Leiter, Deputy Director of the CIA Morrell, National Security Staff traveling with the President in Hawaii, in addition to other representatives from the counterterrorism community.

In a briefing at the White House before the president departed for his Hawaiian holiday, the administration said that they do not see a specific and credible threat this holiday season.

“As far as something specific and credible, we don't see that,” Brennan said Wednesday. “There is a constant stream of reporting throughout the course of the year about al Qaeda's plans.  So sometimes we have that strategic warning.  We're not going to wait for a tactical warning.  We're going to be poised every day to respond.”

Brennan said he is “absolutely confident” that the “deficiencies” that were identified in the system after the after-action review of the Abdulmutallab incident have been addressed.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


ABC News Exclusive: President and First Lady Reflect on Tenure

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After two tough years in office, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sat down with ABC’s Barbara Walters for an exclusive interview and reflected on their tenures, and the many challenges they've faced.

With Thanksgiving travelers up in arms over the Transportation Security Administration's controversial new pat-down procedures, President Barack Obama said the security screenings are justified to keep the nation safe.

"This is gonna be something that evolves. We are gonna have to work on it," Obama told Walters, indicating the need for new technologies.

Coming off the "shellacking" the Democrats took in the 2010 midterm elections, Michelle Obama told Walters she encouraged the president to roll up his sleeves and "get to work."

"I said, 'Let's, let's get to work. There is a lot to do.' ... I think for, for us, it's always the focus on what we need to get done, the work ahead," she said.

Despite Democratic losses, which many considered a referendum on the president, Michelle said she considers her husband's policies a success.

To those who say that the president squandered his political capital by pushing for health care when he should have focused on the economy, Obama defended his record.

"This notion that somehow you can only do one thing at once is simply not true. The fact is, is that we stabilized the financial system...we turned an economy that was contracting to one that was growing. We have added a million jobs over the last year to the economy," Obama told Walters. "I am absolutely confident that when we fully implemented health care, and we started to see those costs go down and we have seen people who don't have health insurance get health insurance, and we have seen families who have health insurance more secure and they are not being jerked around by arbitrary rules from their insurance companies, that that's gonna be a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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