ARLINGTON, Va. – Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the long TSA security check lines and baggage backup are not a “national crisis,” but outlined several steps his department is taking to address the situation.
Many passengers have missed their flights due to the screening delays while others have arrived at their destinations without their checked luggage.
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who took over the press conference when Johnson left, explained that the long lines are a crisis that has resulted from mismanagement within the TSA.
“I would not characterize it as a national crisis. I do characterize our current situation as an aviation security imperative. Our job is to keep the American public safe. We’re dealing this summer with increased travel volume, which obviously puts an added burden on our TSOs and increased demand on the system. We will not compromise aviation security in the face of characterizations of this as a national crisis,” Johnson told reporters at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington.
“More people are in fact traveling, but we’re not going to compromise aviation security under pressure from anybody characterizing this as a crisis. We’re going to bring on more resources to meet the increased demand but we’re going to keep at our principle job, which is the protection of the American people. And we’re asking the American people to be patient while we bring on the added resources as quickly as possible to alleviate the wait times,” he added.
During the press conference, PJM asked Johnson if there are credible terror threats summer travelers should be aware of at this time.
“There’s no specific credible threat that we know of around aviation security. I would refer the public to the new NTAS Bulletin we issued in December for a description of the general environment, but there still continues to be a general concern that we have about aviation security in this global environment. And there is still a need to be vigilant and to be careful and to be aware when it comes to aviation security,” he said.
Mica, chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets, took notes while Johnson was speaking. When the press conference concluded, Mica went to the podium and attributed the long wait times to bureaucratic problems within TSA.
Mica, also a member of the House Transportation Committee, said the TSA is spending too much money on high salaries.
“I brought a chart to show you every year Congress actually appropriated more money. The problem is this has been created into a huge government bureaucracy. They have within 10 miles of where I am standing 4,000 administrative TSA personnel making on average of $104,000,” he said. “We exceeded their [White House budget] requests.”
“Here’s one guy making $181,000 in charge of the problem and he ends up getting an $80,000 bonus – $90,000 because he started getting another $10,000 next month,” he said.
Mica was referring to Kelly Hoggan, assistant administrator for the office of security administrations, who oversees the screening process.
The congressman disagreed with Johnson and called the situation a national crisis.
“They don’t know how to recruit. They don’t know how to train. They certainly can’t maintain and they certainly can’t manage. This is a crazy idea but how about staffing to traffic instead of paying overtime?” he said.
Mica said some of his constituents recently missed flights because the TSA shift had changed and everyone left.
“That’s not the way to run an airport and that’s not the way to run passenger screenings,” he said.
Mica supports the airports that are considering privatizing the screening process under federal supervision.