Lawmaker Scolds TSA Chief for Soaring Airport Security Waits

  • TSA predicting long lines this summer as passengers grow
  • House Homeland Security Committee holds hearing on screening

Longer airport screening lines expected this summer are unacceptable and have come after months of warnings by airlines and airports, the chairman of the House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee said.

Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said at a hearing Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration hadn’t reacted swiftly enough to the growing wait times and hadn’t used its resources appropriately.

“This crisis didn’t just come out of nowhere,” McCaul said. “Airports and airlines have been sounding the alarm for months.”

Thousands of passengers have missed flights this spring as lines swelled at airport security checkpoints, prompting finger pointing between lawmakers and the security agency.

While some in Congress have said TSA hasn’t used its resources appropriately, TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said lines grew in response to lawmakers’ criticism last year about lax security and cuts in the agency’s budgets that has reduced the number of screeners by about 5,000 in the past five years. Neffenger took control of the agency last July.

For more on the tension between Congress and the TSA over wait times, click here

“In just 10 months I have undertaken a systematic and deliberate transformation of TSA,” he said. “We are holding ourselves accountable for a high standard of performance.”

Neffenger shook up his management team this week, removing the head of security and other officials in an attempt to make lines more efficient.

The Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee on Tuesday approved a proposed TSA budget that would give the agency the ability to hire an additional 1,244 employees for airport screening.

Stories about long lines are already having an economic impact, according to the U.S. Travel Association. The group released a poll Wednesday indicating 22 percent of Americans planning summer trips have decided against flying. That translates into $4.3 billion of lost travel spending, the group said.

“The problems at TSA security lines are costing our economy almost a billion and a half dollars in spending and more than 12,000 jobs every month,” Roger Dow, the U.S. Travel Association’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

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