A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is angry that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is diverting money and personnel to the southern border and away from airports.
The US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee oversees the TSA. Both Republican and Democratic members of the committee are concerned that re-direction of personnel to the U.S. Southern Border will come at the expense of airport security screening. This summer is slated to shatter all previous travel records in terms of number of passengers, putting increased strain on already-stretched TSA personnel.
That’s why Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) are questioning why it is necessary to send up to 400 screeners (TSOs) and 75 Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) to the Mexican border. The FAMs are part of TSA’s “Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR)” team, a secretive “multi-layered” approach to keeping airports safe. Senators are asking: if these personnel are at the border, who is filling in the gaps at U.S. airports and how is their specialized training helping at the southern border?
But that’s not all. Senators are angry that the TSA plans to divert $232 million from the 2019 budget to fund “border operations”. Per ATW, that money was intended to fund advanced airport screening equipment plus provide compensation to TSA employees who are injured on the job.
This significantly undermines the TSA request to tack on an extra $1 to each one-way U.S. airline ticket in order to fund more screening.
In a letter to the TSA, the Senators wrote:
While we acknowledge the request for additional resources from the Department of Homeland Security, we have concerns about the potential impact on executing TSA’s mission to ‘protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. Deployment of FAMs would significantly diminish operational capacity, and diversion of funds may slow deployment of new computed tomography (CT) screening machines.
Senators have asked the TSA to provide a risk assessment and analysis concerning the redeployment of funds and personnel.
Is the U.S. border a transportation system? I suppose. But serving meals and offering humanitarian aid seems tangentially related, at best, to ensuring free movement and protecting transport system. The Senators are justified in their concern.
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