Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, urged Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske to continue passenger screenings at small and medium-sized airports across the United States.
“There is no need to curtail security screenings and put Americans at risk when funding shortfalls can be addressed with a simple legislative fix,” said Ranking Member DeFazio. “There is ample funding—paid for by passengers—to pay for screenings at smaller airports, ease congestion at larger facilities, and deploy state-of-the-art screening equipment at airports across the country. We must ensure that funds intended for aviation security are used to keep passengers safe and not to mask the deficit or fund unrelated programs.”
“This proposal from the Trump Administration to abandon its aviation security obligations at over 100 airports would undoubtedly create security gaps and may negatively impact the economy—especially in rural America,” said Ranking Member Thompson. “If the Administration is truly concerned with TSA’s budget, it should urge Congress to ensure 100 percent of passenger security fees go to TSA so it can provide the level of security that terrorist threats necessitate. Contrary to common sense, a significant portion of security fees are taken from TSA each year to go towards debt reduction. I am proud to join Congressman DeFazio in sponsoring legislation to redirect all of these fees back to TSA.”
In response to reports that TSA is considering eliminating passenger screenings at more than 150 small and medium-sized airports across the United States in order to save money, the members urged Administrator Pekoske to focus on a legislative fix instead of cutting essential security screenings at these airports.
Ranking Members DeFazio and Thompson have introduced legislation, H.R. 2514, the Funding for Aviation Screeners and Threat Elimination Restoration Act or the FASTER Act, which would bring increased funding to TSA by ending the diversion of passenger security fees, known as the September 11 security fee, towards debt reduction and government spending for other purposes.
Consumers pay an added fee when purchasing airline tickets that is intended to pay for aviation security. The passenger fee currently stands at $5.60 per one-way trip and may not exceed $11.20 round trip. In Fiscal Year 2016, passengers paid more than $3.6 billion in aviation security fees.
However, in 2013, Congress began diverting one-third of the revenue collected from these fees to the Treasury’s General Fund. Since 2013, Congress has diverted more than $5.4 billion from TSA and will divert another $13.6 billion through 2027 unless current law is changed. At the same time, the number of airline passengers has increased substantially, leading to TSA staffing shortages, increased wait times for travelers, and delayed deployment of state-of-the-art screening equipment.
The FASTER Act would ensure that passenger security fees only go towards aviation security and prevent Congress from raiding these funds in the future.
To read the full text of Rep. DeFazio and Thompson’s letter, click here.