May 19, 2017

Rep. DeFazio Introduces Legislation to Reduce Congestion at TSA Screening Checkpoints

Ahead of busy Memorial Day travel weekend, legislation would ensure shorter lines at airports nationwide

In advance of one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced legislation with Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for Transportation and Protective Security Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) that would help ease congestion and long lines at TSA screening checkpoints at airports.
In 2013, Congress began diverting one-third of the revenue collected from the airline passenger security fees to offset unrelated government spending. The FASTER Act, H.R. 2514, would ensure that passenger security fees only go towards aviation security and prevent Congress from raiding the funds in the future.

“Airline travel is often frustrating, with long lines and delays adding to an already stressful situation,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “There is ample funding—paid for by the consumer—that exists to ease this congestion, but it’s being diverted to cover government debt. President Trump’s recent “skinny budget” shows that he wants to raise airport security fees, but continue diverting the money to the General Fund. Instead of pushing for outrageous priorities like a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the President should focus on directing designated funds towards their intended purpose that will actually improve our national security along with improving the efficiency of airport security.”
In Fiscal Year 2016, passengers paid more than $3.6 billion in aviation security fees. However, of that money, $1.25 billion went to fund other federal priorities. In total, over $15 billion has been diverted from airport security to the General Fund since 2013. While this money has been diverted, the number of airline travelers has increased substantially. Because of TSA staffing shortages and increased security measures, airport security lines across the country have become longer, with passengers sometimes waiting in line for hours or missing flights. The FASTER Act would redirect billions of dollars in funding back to the TSA, so they can begin to address personnel shortages, decrease passenger wait times, and ensure a more efficient and safer screening process.

“As summer travel season approaches, it is especially important that TSA has the resources necessary to ensure effective and efficient security screening,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security. “The security fee consumers pay on each ticket should be dedicated to just that – security. Diverting those funds to other budget programs is a gimmick and Congress should, instead, pass this legislation so these fees are used in line with their original purpose – protecting America’s travelers.”

“TSA’s past problems did not occur overnight,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security. “TSA needs the proper resources to be able to invest in its people and technology and make measurable improvements. One of the largest resource gaps TSA faces is the over a billion dollars of fees it collects from fliers that is being diverted away from aviation security towards deficit reduction. The bill we are introducing today will allow TSA to retain the fees it collects so it can properly staff airports around the country, operate as effectively as possible, and help secure our skies.”

“The traveling public expects that when they spend money on a fee to cover their airport security screening, that’s where their money is going,” said Airlines for America President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “It’s disingenuous, and frankly wrong, for the government to break that commitment to passengers by diverting those funds to other matters that have nothing to do with aviation security. We applaud Representatives DeFazio, Thompson and Watson Coleman for introducing this important legislation that ensures passenger fees go towards their stated purpose.”

"Airports welcome the introduction of the FASTER Act by Representatives DeFazio, Thompson and Watson Coleman to end the practice of diverting $1.28 billion this fiscal year and $13 billion over the decade of 9/11 Passenger Security Fees away from TSA's core aviation security mission to subsidize non-aviation related purposes," Airports Council International-North America President and CEO Kevin M. Burke said. "The safety and security of the traveling public is the top priority for airports. We urge Congress to act on this legislation to ensure TSA has the resources it needs to operate more effectively and efficiently."