By Andrew Zirkle|WASHINGTON, D.C.
Today on Capitol Hill, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske testified in front of House Homeland Security Committee hearing entitled “Preventing the Next Attack: TSA’s Role in Keeping Our Transportation Systems Secure.” Pekoske, who was sworn in as the seventh administrator of the TSA in August, was testifying in front of Congress for the first time since his appointment. Pekoske is inheriting a TSA faced with many problems, including an ever-increasing passenger volume, new security threats, as well as internal organizational problems.
A 2015 report that surfaced earlier this year showed that the TSA overall had a 95% fail rate when it came to detecting prohibited items. Despite promises of reform, the latest round of testing by the Department of Homeland Security has revealed that the fail rate is still over 50%. Although this new figure seems promisingly lower, a source close to the issue interviewed by ABC said that the fail rate in actuality is close to 80%. These vulnerabilities, which were reportedly highlighted by the Inspector General before the hearing, were described by Congressman and Committee Chair Michael Mccaul (R-TX) as “disturbing.” Additionally, Rep. Mccaul stated that “I don’t think that the American people can afford to wait to for their own safety.” The TSA has also been entangled with other pressing internal problems. According to an internal review, 858 officers have been found using marijuana, cocaine or opiates.
During the hearing, Pekoske outlined his desire to replace current X-Ray technology with newer CT 3-D imaging technology. The CT system, which is undergoing currently limited trials in Phoenix and Boston airports, is a largely untested but promising technology. Throughout the hearing, Pekoske strongly defended the new CT technology, suggesting that the only reason why it had not been implemented is that of a lack of funding. Pekoske also highlighted the TSA’s desire to incorporate biometric data including face scans and fingerprint data in order to verify passenger identity and collaborate more efficiently with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Overall, the message of the hearing remained that Pekoske wanted more funding to achieve goals relating to security and workforce. As Democrats and Republicans continue to fight over budgeting issues, it remains to be seen whether or not the TSA will be able to improve its abysmal performance without incurring a larger expense on the budget.