On Nov. 1, 2013, a gunman opened fire with a rifle near a checkpoint in Terminal 3 of the Los Angeles Airport, killing TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez. Two other TSA officers and a civilian were injured. According to multiple reports, the gunman put his target squarely on TSA officers.
Around the world, terrorists have attacked airports in Brussels in 2016 and Paris and Istanbul in 2017 in an attempt to kill passengers and airport employees. These acts of violence remind us of the ongoing threats against aviation.
TSA has taken some steps to address airport and checkpoint volume, but any new security measures put in place, albeit incomplete, could disappear if the Trump administration gets its way. Under the White House’s 2018 budget proposal, TSA is facing a budget cut of $500 million. The administration wants to eliminate the Behavior Detection Officer program – the only security fully integrated with TSA monitoring the area between ticketing and check-in. This is the area targeted by terrorists at the Brussels airport and others.
BDOs are trained to objectively spot actions leading to an attack, such as leaving a suitcase or pulling out a weapon.
"It is shortsighted to eliminate such as important component of airport security," said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. "The program needs to be expanded, not eliminated."
Elimination of the BDO program is bad enough, but the administration also wants to eliminate TSA's law enforcement officer reimbursement program, which are grants awarded to state and local jurisdictions to help patrol and secure airports. The budget itself states that the elimination of the law enforcement officer reimbursement program “could lead to reduced law enforcement support at checkpoints.”
Because the budget eliminates the law enforcement officer grants, the common areas between ticketing and checkpoints will most likely be unprotected. It is less likely that a law enforcement officer will be anywhere around if an attack takes place. Passengers, airport and airline employees, and TSA officers will be vulnerable.
“It’s shocking that such an important security measure would be eliminated,” Cox said. “If anything, security of our airports needs to be increased, not decreased.”
AFGE has been calling on TSA to create a new unit of armed TSA law enforcement officers to defend our nation’s airport screening areas around the clock.
This will ensure a consistent, professional, and coordinated response in the event an incident like the LAX shooting occurs again,” Cox added.