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TSA Failed to Plan for PreCheck’s Popularity, Watchdog Says

  • Inspector General describes backlog, staffing problems
  • TSA trying to enroll 25 million people by 2019 in PreCheck

Passengers stand in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) pre-check line at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The Transportation Safety Administration failed to plan for the popularity of its PreCheck program, causing staffing headaches and a backlog of paperwork, according to a new report.

In an effort to enroll 25 million people in the program by 2019, TSA launched an extensive marketing campaign and opened additional enrollment centers but did not have a process in place to review all the applications, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General said in a report.

"The current process is not suitable for a program receiving and adjudicating thousands of applications a day," OIG said in its report released Thursday. "In June 2016, TSA PreCheck applications surged, leaving the Adjudication Center overwhelmed with applications to manually process."

The program uses automated intelligence-related checks along with reviews of citizenship and criminal records to determine whether a person meets eligibility requirements. About 74 percent of applicants were automatically approved because TSA did not receive disqualifying information.

TSA did not provide additional resources or staff to the Adjudication Center, which is responsible for manually processing about 26 percent of TSA PreCheck Application Program applications, the report said.

TSA said it agreed with the OIG’s recommendations and would fix the problems by hiring additional workers and upgrading its software to speed up the assignment and tracking of cases.

The PreCheck program was established in 2013 to speed up airport security screening. In January, the agency determined that 12.8 million travelers were eligible for the program and that about 4.3 million were already enrolled.

The agency said it has determined that 15 other populations are "low risk" and eligible for TSA PreCheck.

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