April 15, 2008
House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection Holds Hearing on the Transportation Security Administration
LIST OF PANEL MEMBERS AND WITNESSES
Good afternoon. The subcommittee will come to order.
The subcommittee is meeting today to receive testimony on moving beyond the first five years, how the Transportation Security Administration will continue to enhance security for all modes of transportation. Importantly, this testimony will discuss what the Transportation Security Administration has accomplished in the first five years since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and what work remains to be done to secure the nation's transportation system.
Let me first of all acknowledge the presence of the ranking member, Mr. Lungren, of California, and Mr. Bilirakis of Florida.
We are delighted that our Assistant Secretary Hawley is here amongst the other witnesses. Let me thank them all.
Mr. Hawley, Mr. Berrick and Mr. Ervin, it's good to see you again, and, Mr. Verdery, it's good to see you, as well.
I will attempt to yield myself five minutes and to speak pithily in my opening remarks. Many of us are double scheduled. This is an extremely important hearing. I want to give time to the witnesses and also time for the members, who may have to go back to the floor.
As I said, good afternoon, and we thank you again for coming to this hearing and participating, again, in the hearing that speaks about the first five years of the Transportation Security Administration. But, in light of where we are after 9/11, to really focus on how we improve transportation in all modes.
We've had some challenges. As we have discussed, the needs for the air traffic marshals, if you will, the air marshals, U.S. air marshals; as we have listened to the overall challenges addressing the question of utilization of air traffic controllers; as we continue to look for new technology as it impacts the air cargo aspect; as we find that our flight deck officers are facing maybe the possibility of accidental utilization of guns in the cockpit. We know that there is much to be done.
As we continue to work and to make better the work in progress that is the transportation security screeners, we do that by inviting Assistant Secretary Hawley to our respective jurisdictions, as he did just recently in the city of Houston at the Bush International Airport to look at -- and as he's done across the nation -- but to listen to and to look at ways of enhancing the training and professional development of the TSA screeners and to work on what is not a diminishing of security but a consistency in security.
And so, with a smile on my face, we certainly are not here, Ranking Member Lungren, to tip off the terrorists, because with all that we are trying to improve, I have said consistently that this should give no comfort to any terrorist. The United States is far better prepared and ready than it's ever been. And certainly the tragedy, the horrific tragedy of 9/11, has caused to be prepared. But we can always work to do better. For a nation, the necessity for funding and the necessity for technology have to be utilized, along with oversight and hard questions. We should not run away from hard questions.
As we welcome the witnesses today, I think we will be speaking about many very important issues. We recognize the significant milestone that is the Department of Homeland Security's fifth year anniversary. This subcommittee will take the opportunity to reflect on the work that TSA has done to secure our nation's aviation and surface transportation systems and what work has to be done.
First, I'd like to recognize, again, the work that the TSA employees and the team have done.
Thank you, and thank you to Assistant Secretary Hawley for your work.
However, in the business of security, there is always work to be done for those of us charged with doing all we can to protect the American public from those who wish to do us harm. The work never ends, and we can never rest.
As such, we're here today to discuss not only what has been accomplished in aviation and surface transportation security, but what needs to be done. The TSA is responsible for the security of highways, railroads, buses, mass transit systems, ports and the 450 U.S. airports and employs approximately 50,000 individuals who have the very important mission of keeping the traveling public safe from terrorist threats.
There are many aspects of securing transportation. First, there must be an overarching plan and comprehensive strategy under which all programs and policies must flow. Those programs need to be administered efficiently in combination with developments, in screening and detection, technology, to make sure that threats are discovered.
We must have well thought out grant programs that quickly get money to mass transit or transit systems and an appropriate risk assessment so that continuing security investments can be made that are tailored to particular transit systems to provide the most comprehensive security networks, an all-important component of security that I consider a paramount priority in the continuing training of front-line workers. They are our first line of defense against our enemies, and we owe it to them to provide them with the best training, supportive work environment and opportunities for professional development.
With respect to technology, we must cut out the red tape. The longer we are engaged in red tape, the less secure America becomes. If we must screen air cargo, then we must do it with the latest technology. If it's available, we have to cut the layers and layers of approval that now the DHS subjects entrepreneurs and inventors of new technology that can actually help us.
Do I want to build in fraud? Absolutely not. I want to build in efficiency, expediency, detailed knowledge of the technology and then approval, if it is a product or a technology that works.
When this Congress passed into law the 9/11 bill, we directed the department to make improvements in the aviation cargo screening, expanded the surface transportation security grants, defined criteria for the handling of security-sensitive materials on railroads and provided significant employee training programs and protections.
I'd like to think this committee has been part of the solution. The subcommittee has worked very hard on including in its oversight the improvement of transportation employees, security employees. It is vitally important that the department continues to carry out the mandates created in the 9/11 bill. These provisions were created in a bipartisan manner with significant input from the department and industry stakeholders to close security gaps and fulfill the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
To be sure, the TSA has taken steps to secure the plane and the passenger but has still left the system vulnerable to attacks. In essence, I believe that our focus has disproportionately been on protecting aircraft from past attack scenarios, such as suicide hijackings, which we should never forget, and IEDs carried out by airline passengers, and has not given enough attention by other potential vulnerabilities.
I'm encouraged by the progress that has been made within the TSA, such as including refining the checkpoints, advances made in behavior recognition.
And, Assistant Secretary Hawley, I'll be asking you about a success story we recently had in introducing technologies that improve screening. However, there remains cause for concern, as well. By TSA's own covert testing, TSA screeners are still underperforming when it comes to detecting potential bombs and bomb parts, calling into question whether TSOs are getting the training they need to do the job that we need them to do and that they desire to do.
Training, resources, we can't nickel and dime the security of Americans. We must also not lose sight of the need for robust surface transportation security programs. I wonder how many of us have paid attention to the buses that travel upon the roads and highways of this nation, taking hardworking Americans to work.
The intelligence tells us that transportation continues to be the most significant security threat facing us today. Aviation is still a premium for terrorists, but as attacks around the world have shown us, rail and mass transit is also an extremely attractive target for those who want to cause mass casualties and panic, and buses, as I previously said.
When 11.3 million people are traveling by mass transit each weekday, we cannot afford to lose sight of this vulnerability. And that is why this hearing is so vital. TSA is one of the most high- profile components of the Department of Homeland Security. It has a broad-based jurisdiction, and we are here to be a partner in, again, as I said, protecting America against threats and, as well, ensuring the safety and security of Americans.
As the subcommittee with jurisdiction over transportation security and infrastructure protection, we need to be in constant communication with the TSA on how we can continue to improve transportation security. So today, in the sense of respect of the fifth anniversary of the department, let us congratulate our successes, and let us thank our front-line employees, but let us come together in our collective concern and efforts and vigilance.
We have managed to avert a terrorist attack on our soil since the tragic events of September 11th. But even more important than celebrating our efforts is thinking critically and creatively and with foresight about the systemic steps that we need to take to better secure our nation's transportation systems. As you are, we are here to be of assistance and to make it happen.
I thank the witnesses for their testimony. With that, I yield to the distinguished gentleman from California for his opening statement.
Thank you very much, Chairwoman Jackson Lee. Thank you for having this hearing.
The Transportation Security Administration is without a doubt a critical partner in our nation's domestic security umbrella. Therefore, before we move beyond the first five years, I believe it is important for us to reflect on what we've learned during these formative years for TSA and for our Homeland Security Department in general.
First and foremost, and you alluded to this a moment ago, there have been no successful attacks against any U.S. transportation mode since TSA was established. I don't think that's by accident.
If anybody thinks that after 9/11 Al Qaida put its feet up on the table and decided that they were no longer going to try and attack us, I think that person is living in a dream world. There have been no successful attacks since -- well, in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and thus far in 2008. I don't think that's by accident. I think it's because of the hard work of many men and women around the world, including those involved with TSA.
So, before we look forward, it seems to me we should recognize and commend the outstanding work of all, including TSA, in fulfilling their mission in securing our air, rail and bus transportation systems. TSA has accomplished their mission, yet we know there is much more to be done. There is no perfection in this world, and we can always do better.
We have had hearings in which we have pointed out shortcomings, as we have also acknowledged the successes within the Department of Homeland Security, and I hope that will continue.
But it seems to me we on our side over here could be doing some things, too. We have not in the last year and a half provided a homeland security authorization bill. That's two consecutive years.
It seems to me, if we're serious about finding ways TSA could enhance future transportation security, passing an authorization bill, whether or not the Senate would move along with it, would be an important first step. It would show exactly we think TSA and the department should be going. It would show a commitment on a total bipartisan basis in our effort to ensure that we continue with progress.
Another helpful change that we could make would be to consolidate congressional jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Department. I know how many times we've had TSA up here. I know how many times we've had other people from the Department of Homeland Security here.
It seems to me that TSA and the department could focus on its critical transportation security responsibilities in a better way, instead of responding to and appearing before countless congressional committees. I mean, that was the promise of reorganization here in the Congress to go along with the reorganization on the executive branch.
And I'll say that my side of the aisle failed to do it, and I was hoping that maybe we would see this in the last couple of years, but it hasn't. And that's not a partisan issue. That's a congressional issue that continues.
But we ought to step up and say, if this is a priority, we ought to have the courage to reorganize ourselves. Congress should also stop the continuous departmental reorganizations. I think this would stabilize the working environment and improve productivity in the entire department.
So, looking forward, TSA can enhance future security for all modes of transportation by not abandoning the risk-based security principles in pursuit of something which is elusive, 100 percent this, 100 percent that. One-hundred percent screening solutions at times may sound good, but they may not in fact be the practical way that we deal with the problem.
Risk assessment allows TSA and the department to effectively target its financial and intelligence resources for a greater security benefit. Without unlimited funding, and we'll never have that, we in the Congress have to do better. We have to be smarter. We have to make sure that our department is smarter than the terrorists. We have to use our intelligence and layered security measures to mitigate future risks.
As much as I would like to say it could be true, the fact of the matter is risks cannot be eliminated entirely, and we ought to level with the American public on that. It can be managed and it can be practically dealt with and effectively dealt with in all areas. But that's also true in a transportation system as large as ours.
If we tried to promise something which is impossible, bankruptcy will result and terrorists will win. I hope that we can continue to use the risk-based approach, the layered security approach, working in a cooperative effort between the Congress and the executive branch, pointing out the warts where they exist, and I know occasionally you folks point out the warts which exist over here, as well.
But we should be giving the American people confidence that we are in this together, not for partisan purposes, but on a bipartisan basis attempting to do the best for this country under the best of circumstances that we can create. So I look forward to the hearing today and to hear from our witnesses this afternoon.
We have reviewed the prepared testimony. I might have to skip out for a short time for another meeting I have, but I will be back here for the round of questions and I know we'll probably be interrupted by votes on the floor, too. But I will be back after that to make sure that we have a chance for the questioning round.
So thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman.
I thank the ranking member and join him in accepting the challenge. Obviously, as he admitted, when the House was in different leadership it was quite difficult to try to disturb this jurisdictional, if you will, roadblock that we sometimes have.
I can assure you that myself and the chairman of the full committee are committed to ensuring a well-run Department of Homeland Security with minimal amount of overlapping in jurisdiction. And we're willing to take up the challenge, and I think as we listen to the witnesses, who may themselves wish to comment on streamlining the jurisdictional oversight, we'll work together. And we hope that you'll have the votes on your side of the aisle, and we'll work to get the votes on our side of the aisle, because it certainly is an important question.
I'd like to also note that you made an important point about authorization, and of course we did pass an authorization bill out of the House last year. And we really will look forward to tackling that again and working to ensure that it happens. But we all are concerned about those issues, and we thank you for your statement.
Let me as well now indicate that other members of the subcommittee are reminded that under the committee rules opening statements may be submitted for the record.
I welcome our panel of witnesses. Our first witness, Assistant Secretary Kip Hawley, is very well known to this committee. As the distinguished administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, Kip Hawley has exhibited his extensive transportation technology experience in both the private and public sectors, his tenure as assistant secretary of homeland security for the transportation security administration, since his swearing in in 2005.
Our second witness is Ms. Cathy Berrick, who is director of homeland security and justice at the Government Accountability Office. In this position, she oversees GAO's reviews of aviation and surface transportation security matters, has developed a broad knowledge of transportation security practices and related federal policies and federal and private sector roles and responsibilities.
Our third witness is Mr. Clark Kent Ervin, who has spent some of his best years in Houston, Texas. Clark Kent Ervin joined the Aspen Institute in January 2005 to explore the creation of a homeland security initiative. Before joining the institute, he served as the first inspector general of the United States Department of Homeland Security from January 2003 to December 2004. Prior to his service at DHS, he served as the inspector general of the United States Department of State from August 2001 to January 2003. His service in the George W. Bush administration is preceded by his service as the associate director of policy in the White House Office of National Service in the George H.W. Bush administration.
Our fourth and final witness is Mr. Stewart Verdery of Monument Policy Group. From 2003 to 2005, he served as the first assistant secretary for policy and planning at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Following his unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate, at DHS Border and Transportation Security Directorate, he led efforts to develop and implement policies related to immigration, visas, travel facilitation, cargo security and international trade, transportation security and law enforcement. Mr. Verdery supervised policy development at agencies such as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration. Mr. Verdery also serves as an adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Without objection, the witnesses' full statements will be inserted in the record. I now ask each witness to summarize his five- minute statement, beginning with Assistant Secretary Hawley.
Thank you, Chairwoman Jackson Lee, Ranking Member Bilirakis, members of the subcommittee.
I'm pleased to appear before you today to discuss the first five years at DHS for TSA and look ahead to the next five years. Two weeks ago today, Kevin Brown walked into the Orlando Airport. A behavior detection manager in plainclothes saw Mr. Brown and he saw a few things that caught his interest as a trained behavior specialist.
Along with additional behavior detection officers, they intercepted his checked baggage before they went to screening. When they had searched his bags, they found everything you need to build a bomb.
Brown didn't make it to the checkpoint and his bags never left the lobby. He was intercepted and taken into custody by the Orlando police, searched at curbside by the Orange County bomb squad and turned over to the FBI. This is layered security in action. It is an excellent example of TSA's partnership with law enforcement and it's part of our new paradigm to recognize and use the skill of our work force to add layers of security to go on offense.
How do we do that? There are three prongs to our approach to upgrade security: people, technology and process. All of those need to be improved, and all are moving forward as we speak. We call it Checkpoint Evolution because we do not have the game-changing technology that will at once take us back to pre-9/11 convenience.
By upgrading what we do have, our significant people and technology resources, coupled with process innovation, we can get the security result we need with a lot less hassle to passengers. And, recently, TSA announced a prototype checkpoint that will shortly tested in Baltimore.
You will see there an integrated security checkpoint bringing together people, technology and better process. You will first notice a new look, but the most significant piece involves our officers.
The checkpoint configuration and technology will support a team approach that will be calmer and more conducive to smart security. It all starts with our people. They are our biggest investment, and if we motivate and prepare them to their best, they will in fact improve TSA security.
Our TSOs are ready to use that experience and skill from working with passengers every day to take security up a level. This committee has been forward leaning, and the chairwoman mentioned in her opening statement their commitment to front-line training. And TSA is committed, as well.
We have begun a top-to-bottom retraining of our work force. I and every TSO working at a checkpoint will undergo this year an extensive 12-hour retraining, bringing together the latest thinking from intelligence, from explosive detection and in human factors that can affect security.
This will give us the tools to go on offense. It is not about completing a checklist. It's about stopping terror plots.
And on the technology front of Checkpoint Evolution, we will be upgrading the technology you see at passenger checkpoints. For quick, less-intrusive, highly effective screening of what's carried on the person, whole-body imaging will be deployed, this week, to JFK and LAX airports. We will begin operating millimeter-wave technology at those airports.
In addition, we will be purchasing at least 30 more of the machines for deployment at airports this year. I have previously said that we are deploying 250 multi-view advanced X-ray machines by midyear and today I'm pleased to announce our plan to purchase and deploy another 580 units, totaling 830, using F.Y. '07 supplemental and F.Y. '08 annual appropriations.
We've got 250 already bought. We're announcing today we're going to add another 580. Multi-view advanced X-ray is a powerful platform on which to build additional software algorithms as new detection technologies become available, including for liquids.
Six-hundred of these machines, of the new A.T. machines, are going to be deployed by year end. TSA's strategy is to start with intelligence, partner with law enforcement, industry partners and the public and use security measures that are flexible, widely deployable, mobile and layered to cover the inevitable gaps that exist or develop in our complex open transportation network.
We cannot afford to spend all our energy looking for listed items while standing behind the magnetometer. We have to look up from the checklist and be proactive, engaged in really evaluating risk.
TSOs and all of us at TSA are focused not only on what we already know, but also on being alert for clues of something new, different and dangerous. That is the challenge of the next five years, to execute against known threats, but also to have the courage and imagination to put measures in place now that will disrupt whatever may come at us.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for your testimony.
I now recognize Ms. Berrick to summarize her statement for five minutes.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman and Ranking Member Bilirakis for inviting me here to discuss GAO's work assessing TSA's progress in securing the transportation network and needed focus moving forward.
Since its creation, we have reported that TSA has made moderate progress in securing aviation and surface transportation modes. In other words, we reported that TSA has generally achieved between half and three-quarters of the expectations set out for them by Congress, the administration and DHS itself.
With respect to progress, we found that TSA has made significant achievements in the following four key areas: hiring, deploying, training and measuring the performance of its aviation security work force; developing, implementing and testing procedures for screening passengers and baggage; deploying systems to screen checked baggage for explosives; and conducting risk assessments, partnering with stakeholders and administering grant programs for surface transportation systems.
For example, we reported that TSA has developed robust training programs for TSOs, including enhanced explosives detection training. TSA also issued strategies for securing transportation modes and is pursuing a rulemaking to guide its efforts in securing passenger and freight rail systems.
However, we found that other key areas need continued attention, both in the short and long terms. First, it is important that TSA move forward on initiatives to secure airport perimeters and access to restricted airport areas.
Although TSA has completed technology pilots and issued guidelines for biometric identification systems, it has not yet determined how or when it will require the implementation of these systems nationwide. In addition, TSA is making progress in determining how to mitigate the risk posed by airport workers through an ongoing pilot, among other efforts. However, the agency has not yet made final decisions regarding how it will address this vulnerability.
Second, with regard to checkpoint screening technologies, DHS and TSA have researched, developed, tested and initiated procurements of various technologies to detect explosives and plan to deploy new, enhanced technologies this year. However, to date, TSA has made limited progress in fielding emerging technologies due to performance, maintenance and planning issues.
Third, although TSA has made significant progress in strengthening the development of Secure Flight, a government-run program to match passenger information against a terrorist watch list, some challenges remain, including the need for more sound program cost and schedule estimates, better management of program risks and test plans that reflect comprehensive systems testing.
Fourth, TSA made progress on a number of fronts in securing air cargo and is pursuing a plan to meet the congressional mandate to screen 100 percent of cargo on passenger aircraft. However, TSA has placed less attention on cargo transported into the United States from foreign locations and DHS and TSA have made limited progress in deploying technologies to screen cargo.
Finally, TSA will need to continue to define its regulatory or other role with respect to all surface transportation modes and more clearly define the mission and capabilities of its inspections work force. For example, it is unclear whether TSA's surface inspectors will be able to support the increased workload expected in implementing the requirements of the 9/11 act and new security regulations.
In conducting our work, we have found that a variety of cross- cutting issues have impacted DHS and its components' efforts, including TSA. These include developing results-oriented goals and measures to assess performance, integrating a risk-based approach to guide investments and establishing effective frameworks for coordinating with stakeholders.
TSA has placed attention on and continues to make progress in addressing all of these issues. We are currently reviewing TSA's efforts in many of these key areas and will continue to report to the Congress and the public on the results of our work.
This concludes my opening statement. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you for your testimony.
And it's my pleasure now to recognize Mr. Ervin to summarize his statement for five minutes.
Thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman and Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you very much for inviting me to testify today on this important topic. Let me start with the positives.
I think that Secretary Hawley is to be commended for the more open and collaborative spirit he brings to the job. Under his leadership, TSA has been more willing to listen to, respond to and benefit from constructive criticism.
Operationally, I commend the move toward introducing more randomness into the system so as to keep terrorists off guard as much as possible. I think the behavior detection program is, in theory, at least, very much to be applauded. A variant of it has worked for many years, in fact, in Israel. And it led just recently, here in this country, in Orlando, as we've all noticed and spoken about, to the detection of a passenger carrying bomb parts.
As important as it is to spot guns, knives, bombs and other potential weapons before they are used to deadly effect, it is at least as important, if not more so, to try to identify people whose behavior suggests that they might use such weapons.
My concern is whether transportation security officers are being trained long enough and comprehensively enough to truly distinguish between people whose movements, mannerisms or demeanor suggest deadly intent and people who merely look different from the norm. What to a behavior detection officer is behavior detection may to a given subject be racial or ethnic profiling.
TSA is to be commended also for the initiative to redesign the checkpoint to make it more aesthetically and psychologically appealing, and, likewise, the effort to create separate lines for experienced business travelers and harried parents and others who need more time to go through the checkpoint is commendable. But I remain troubled by several things.
First of all, undercover government and media investigations continue to the present day to show what they have shown since 9/11: screeners far too often fail to spot concealed guns, knives and bombs. TSA's response to such results is always the same: screener performance is only one of several, 19 layers, at airports. A concentrated effort to defeat any one layer can succeed, certainly, but each layer is linked such that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And, of course, screeners fail test nowadays. They're much harder than they used to be, and they get harder all the time.
But to take these arguments in turn, the whole chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And, as links go, the checkpoint is the most important in terms of keeping weapons off airplanes.
As a general rule, the one and only time that passengers and their carry-on luggage are checked for guns, knives and bombs is at the checkpoint. And of course we want the test to be as hard as possible. It is not as if terrorists will make it easy to spot their concealed weapons.
TSA seems to be saying implicitly and illogically the worse we do on these tests, the better. The good news is that we've heard today from Secretary Hawley that still more technology, which is the ultimate key to this, will be deployed. I hope that this effort will be accelerated and that additional monies will be provided to TSA to ensure and to further expedite the deployment of these technologies.
My second concern relates to air cargo. It is good news that TSA is now required by law to screen 100 percent of cargo on passenger planes for explosives by 2010, so I was initially heartened to read last week's "USA Today" story that TSA was launching this effort this summer in major cities, suggesting that the deadline will be met sooner, rather than later.
As I read further, though, I grew disheartened, as I learned that, much like the C-TPAT program that CBP employs, TSA will allow shippers of air cargo to volunteer to screen their own cargo. There is no reason to believe that shippers in any great numbers will be wiling to play for the necessary personnel and equipment.
Further, as to any shipper that would be willing to pay for the necessary personnel and equipment and conduct its own self screening, we simply cannot afford to outsource a critical security function like this in the post-9/11 world. Businesses are concerned about security, certainly, but understandably their first concern is their bottom line. When the two conflict, security loses out.
My third concern relates to air marshals. I was concerned by the CNN story just last week that only about 1 percent of the 28,000 commercial flights flown in an average day are covered by air marshals, according to some half-dozen air marshals and pilots interviewed by the network. If this is true, this is particularly troubling, and that's especially the case against the backdrop of the poor results on these undercover tests that was just mentioned. I hope we'll probe that today during the course of the hearing.
And then, finally, I'm concerned that while pilots and flight attendants are screened, like passengers, every time they go through checkpoints, other airport workers, some 900,000 of them nationwide, are not. The background check process is not sufficient, it seems to me, when we learned that on occasion workers are caught with thefts and drug smuggling, other crimes. If these background tests are not sufficient in that circumstance, they're not sufficient to protect against terrorism.
This summarizes my testimony, Madam Chair, and I'm looking forward very much to your questions.
Thank you very much for your testimony.
And, Mr. Verdery, if you would summarize your statement in five minutes.
Madam Chairwoman Jackson Lee, Congressman Bilirakis, thank you for having me back to the committee today. It's nice to be back.
It's an interesting challenge, deploying policy, technology and resources to secure transportation. Over the past several years, TSA deserves great credit for making strides in this arena.
I would ask the Congress to stick with what has worked -- risk management has worked -- and not load on additional layers on TSA that cannot be funded and cannot be properly implemented. Some level of risk is inherent in transportation systems, especially non-aviation systems, as we'll talk about later.
As you mentioned, I served as assistant secretary for policy the first two years of the department. The two years I oversaw TSA from a policy perspective were a tumultuous time, as TSA moved from the Department of Transportation to DHS. And, unfortunately, it was a time when TSA's every misstep seemed to show up on the late-night comics and led to congressional oversight.
People had not yet grasped what it means to try to secure aviation systems or transportation more broadly. What these comics and critics missed was the success that was being built and it was mentioned by both of you in your opening statements, the fact that there has not been a successful incident in this country, and that's largely because of the investments that have been made.
Other agencies now have a public awareness of what a real level of performance is. When a drug boat makes it past the Coast Guard, when an illegal migrant makes it past CBP into the country, when the IRS, on tax day, of all days, fails to find a tax cheat, people say that's just what happens. We're not going to be perfect. But, somehow, TSA is held to a standard, and every time somebody sneaks a knife past security or every time there's a breach in the sterile zone, it ends up on CNN.
We have to understand the risk in the system. I think the American public would be very surprised to learn that in F.Y. '07, the last full year, the TSA's budget was 99.8 percent as large as the FBI's, and the FBI has a heck of a lot broader portfolio than the TSA, everything from counterterrorism to public corruption. But that's what happens when you go and you hire 45,000 well-trained, well- compensated, well-supported employees. And you've gotten a good bang for the buck.
But as you build out more and more mandates and add on more and more equipment, there are trailing costs that may not be worth the investment when there are so many other needs in the Homeland Security arena.
People have to remember that each layer of the 20 layers that have been mentioned are not meant to be perfect. The goal of checking IDs is not to find the fake ID. The goal of the liquids check is not to find the liquid. It's to identify individuals who have a serious intent of doing harm to passengers or to a transportation mechanism.
In my written testimony, I mention several successes of Administrator Hawley over the last couple of years, and I particularly want to mention the traveler redress program that was launched last year with help of the DHS Screening and Coordination Office. This has been a great success, and I encourage people who have watch list problems to try to use it.
I had one individual that I work with said he had a watch list problem and I'll just read what he wrote me yesterday. I'm a frequent traveler who regularly checked in online, at home or at the airport kiosk. In preparation for a recent trip, I tried to check in the night before and was told I had to see an agent. I went to the desk and was told I had to check in because I was on a security list. Apparently, there was someone with my same name, even the middle initial.
I went to the DHS Web site, read the TRIP process, submitted the required forms and documents. Within two weeks, it was resolved. I received a letter from DHS that reviewed my case and fixed the issue. I thought the process was clear, quick and responsive. I was impressed.
So this is working well, but I ask the committee to go one step further, take advantage of H.R. 4719, Congresswoman Clarke's bill. Take it up, move it. It will codify the program and expand it to non- transportation modes. It's an excellent bill.
In my few minutes remaining, I want to take a couple of programs where I think TSA has missed opportunities to work with the private sector in ways that would be most productive. And first is the Registered Traveler program.
I know the committee had an oversight hearing on this recently, but the basic program still -- and I'm a member of the program -- while you provide fingerprints as part of the application process, they're not sued. They are not run against criminal databases. They are not run against terrorist databases, the logic being, well, we're not changing the checkpoint no matter what the background check says.
I think this is a missed opportunity. We have to look at risk management, and the idea that we're going to make somebody take off their shoes who's going through a full background check, has volunteered every piece of information that they will to the government and take up screener time to check millions would-be travelers and take off their shoes I think is a poor use of resources that could be used for other purposes.
Moreover, Customs and Border Protection, the sister agency of TSA, promisingly announced yesterday that Global Entry, International Registered Traveler program for arrivals in the U.S., these individuals will go through a full interview, full criminal check, full background check, fingerprint check. They ought to be cross- enrolled in the domestic program and I understand talks are underway to make that happen.
Again, that's moving people into a streamlined process and allowing screeners to focus on individuals they haven't seen before.
We need to move forward on the Travel Document Checker program. It's part of the promising program that the administrator announced. We are now checking IDs instead of having it be handled by a rent-a- cop in an inconvenient, easy-to-avoid fashion. But there is technology in the works in driver's licenses with watermarks that can easily be read and this will be able to find licenses that will be of increasing value as REAL ID is finalized.
A true REAL ID-compliant license will be quite valuable if it's stolen or forged, and we need to be able to detect those.
Madam Chairwoman, my five minutes is up. I hope during the question-and-answer period, we'll have a chance to talk about Secure Flight, a program I worked on at DHS which remains in the works, unfortunately. It's a difficult program, but a priority and also how we can move forward in some of the other modes of transportation.
I thank the witnesses for their testimony and I remind each member that he or she will have five minutes to question the panel, and I now recognize myself for questions.
Certainly the witnesses have given us a broad perspective of the success stories, but yet recognizing that our oversight is crucial. And I think that we should spend our time recognizing the work that the vast numbers of employees of TSA have done and never let any question that may come forward diminish that.
At the same time, we have precious little time to engage with the administration and to ensure that our concerns are sufficiently heard.
So let me start first with Assistant Secretary Hawley, and tell me, how expanded, or how expansive, is the behavioral assessment program? What kind of funding resources have you invested in it? How many of your overall employees -- and I think Mr. Verdery said 45,000, and as he's looking, he's saying give or take a few -- really had the opportunity to have this training?
In terms of budget support we have gotten that, and the president sent up a budget amendment in the fall for F.Y. '07 that has helped us, along with the '08 appropriation, go from approximately 1,200 behavior detection officers that we have now, and we expect to have about 2,000 by the end of the year.
And, as you know, this is a separate category in terms of rank, because one comes in as a TSO and then the behavior detection officer is an opportunity for career progression. It's a promotion and it is a full-time behavior detection capability. So we have 2,000 out of the total work force, or will have 2,000.
And I think you've just made a point, will have 2,000, and that's out of 45,000. What would that generally allow per airport, or major airport?
Well, our goal is to cover all of the hours that are open at the checkpoints and we'll be able to get through the large cat X (ph), so to speak, and the cat 1s (ph), and I'm not sure how deep into all of the airports. However, we do have roving patrols that move around from place to place.
And I have to just correct one thing on a factual basis. On the CNN report about air marshals covering 1 percent, that number is absolutely wrong by an order of magnitude. And it was a guess by the folks there, and I just have to say that number is completely false.
No disrespect to Clark Kent Ervin who was quoting what he heard on CNN, but just that number is not correct.
Now, would you venture to say that it is sizably larger than that.
And I will give Mr. Ervin a chance to respond.
Let me proceed and ask further on how much progress is being made on the watch list, the Secure Flight. It is a constant, if you will -- raises continued concerns with the traveling public and the airlines trying to balance the necessity of security with competence, because it is a question of competence. We can't seem to get an integrated and concise list.
As Mr. Verdery mentioned it, it's had a stop-and-start history, but it really is back on track and I think Ms. Berrick noted some steps yet to take. But we expect the final rule to be out in the summer, and the development of the program is going along and we are now doing benchmark testing, actually operating the system with benchmark data.
So our expectation is that it will be ready to go, assuming the rule is out, in the very beginning of 2009.
Let me ask Ms. Berrick, what is the premier issue that TSA has to address if we are to move forward in our security in the transportation system?
I think there's probably three areas. One is really that the airport perimeter security and access controls, and there's really two aspects of this. One is the implementation of a biometric identification system to control access to restricted airport areas.
TSA has issued guidelines. They've done some pilot efforts to get this off of the ground, but this program has not been implemented nationwide.
Another area related to airport security is the screening of airport employees, and TSA also has some efforts underway through random screening. They also have a pilot effort underway that was actually mandated by Congress to explore different options for employee screening, but they haven't yet made final decisions, so that's one area.
Another area is air cargo. As was mentioned, TSA is mandated to begin 100 percent of screening of air cargo on passenger aircraft by 2010. That's going to be a huge effort. It's going to be a big change in how they do things right now.
They've got a plan to do that. GAO has been requested by this committee and others to look at their strategy for doing that and, as they roll this out, we'll be looking at their efforts, but that's going to be a challenge moving forward.
And then, finally, Secure Flight, as you just asked about. GAO has been reviewing this program for the past four years and I have to agree that Secure Flight has made significant progress the past year and a half. There's a lot more discipline and rigor and the development of Secure Flight.
There's a few areas that we think TSA should still focus on related to the program. One is cost and schedule estimates. We don't think that TSA's estimates on the cost and the schedule of Secure Flight were developed based on best practices, and we had some recommendations to TSA to strengthen that.
Another area is testing. The draft test plans that we've seen identify testing, but not end-to-end testing. As you're aware, Secure Flight is going to screen both domestic and international passengers, so TSA will have to coordinate with CBP in getting data to do matching.
And how do you portend to improve the testing?
We think that in the test plans it should reflect the end-to-end system testing from start to stop. So instead of doing individual tests at different locations within TSA, within CBP, it needs to be end to end.
We highlighted this to TSA. TSA agreed that that's important and said that they do plan on doing it. We just haven't seen it in the testing.
And the air cargo, do you see a present and future plan that TSA is now engaged in to lay out the road map as to how they meet the requirements of the deadline that Congress has set?
Yes, they do have a strategy that they've rolled out that's moving security further down the supply chain where they'll certify manufacturers and shippers, maintain a chain of custody of cargo. And that practice, in fact, has been successful in some foreign countries that we've highlighted in past reports.
We haven't independently assessed that. We've been asked by this committee and others to do that, and we will be reviewing that over the next year.
Mr. Ervin, I will hold my questions for you, because I will now yield five minutes to the distinguished gentlemen from Florida, Mr. Bilirakis.
Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you so much for holding this hearing, as well.
One of my concerns has to do with the security and safety of our nation's pipelines. There was an incident near my congressional district several months ago in which a pipeline carrying dangerous gas was breached, resulting in an evacuation of the area.
This incident and the federal response raised question about the role of TSA in pipeline security and industry compliance with the federal safety and security guidance. I have a couple of questions for Mr. Hawley.
Would you please explain to us how TSA assesses pipeline security threats and monitors industry compliance with federal security standards and guidance. As well, how would you characterize industry compliance with those standards?
In the how do we keep them posted and how do we develop threat information and share that, that is something that we do on a daily basis and, as we identify threat information anywhere in the world, we share it with the industry. We do not, unlike some of the other areas that we regulate, have a fleet of inspectors for pipelines.
So what we do is we work with best practices with industry associations and industry companies that the pipeline is a network and having security measures that keep the network operating is the number-one priority. And then individual security plans all along the way are things that we work with them on best practices and then go out and do audits of whether or not they're complying with them. And in the audits that we've done, we've found very good compliance and a willingness to change, as need be.
OK, again for Mr. Hawley.
In your written testimony, you mention that the TSA has reviewed company adoptions of pipeline security guidelines and developed a best security practices document based on the observations throughout the industry. Are these guidelines voluntary and, if yes, does TSA have the authority to require industry compliance with these guidelines and standards?
They are voluntary and they are, from the point of view of we have overall authority if there were to be a particularly compelling need for public health and safety to get at compliance.
However, it's an interesting area and, again, in terms of authorization legislation coming out of this committee, I think it could be clarified to some extent.
Thank you. Do you agree with me that an act of vandalism against a pipeline, such as the one in my congressional district, carrying hazardous substances, can threaten the public in the same manner in which a deliberate act of terrorism against them? And do you believe the federal pipeline security guidance adequate to stop acts of vandalism against pipelines like the incident, again, in my district, or something worse, a deliberate act of terrorism?
Vandalism is something that's pretty hard to prevent, but we look at the networks, so first of all there are controls within the network that would limit damage to one area. And then, frankly, as individual punctures, perhaps, are made, there are safeguards in place in limit the damage that could be done there. And there are prudent security measures that go to the hardening and the physical security of it.
But given the length of the pipelines in this country, preventing the vandalism opportunity is extremely, extremely difficult.
Are there clear roles and responsibility for TSA and DOT regarding preparing for and responding to pipeline safety and security incidents?
Yes, we have an MOU between us and that's written down and signed.
OK, how does TSA differentiate between a security- related pipeline breach and a safety-related pipeline incident?
We have those issues across the board with DOT and we have agreements that define them. But, essentially, it is on a security threat, we have to share equally back and forth because first you may not know. But it is principally at the intel level at the kinds of regulatory things that we come out with or recommended practices that we come out with that would get at a security breach that may not be addressed by a safety breach, in other words, willful intent versus an act of God.
Madam Chairwoman, one more question.
The 9/11 bill included a requirement for TSA to visit the top 100 most critical pipeline facilities in the United States, six of which are in Florida. Does the fiscal year 2009 budget request provide sufficient funding to develop and implement the required strategy to review the security plans of pipeline operators and actually carry out inspections to ensure their adherence to existing federal security guidance?
I don't know, but I'll have to get back to you on that.
OK, thank you very much. Thank you.
The gentleman's time has expired.
Let me acknowledge the presence of the distinguished gentlelady from New York, Ms. Clarke, and Mr. Perlmutter, the distinguished gentleman from Colorado.
I now yield five minutes to the distinguished gentlelady from New York.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair, Ranking Member Lungren.
Over the past several years, as DHS and other security-related agencies have implemented new procedures, one of the biggest changes has been the combining of several watch lists into a single database, I suppose in an effort to be efficient. And the use of that database was to screen the public.
In the years since this began, we have found that while it's a great idea in concept, there have been problems putting it into practice, as many innocent people have been mistakenly swept up, most commonly while traveling.
Although the long-awaited Secure Flight program should help reduce the number of misidentifications, it will not nearly solve the problem by itself. It must be supported by an actual redress program.
In February of 2007, TSA, which scans more people against the database than any other government entity, implemented the DHS TRIP program, which has since been reclassified as the Department's Office of Appeals and Redress, to provide such a program that should allow passengers the opportunity to clear their names and to avoid misidentification.
Assistant Secretary, would you give us sort of a sense of where we are with that process, how accessible it is to the public and what your assessment of its effectiveness has been when you look at the mis-IDs in the database?
Yes, Secure Flight, I believe, will virtually solve the problem in that there won't be misidentifications because we'll be getting the data, specifically date of birth and the other data elements, that will allow us to resolve whether or not that is the person.
So in terms of people who are misidentified, I think that problem will virtually go away.
Secretary Chertoff has as one of his top personal initiatives with TSA putting in place whatever we can do immediately, given the problems that it causes for regular travelers. And is a function of the airlines' reservation systems, where some airlines have a very good way of matching people. Others do not, so it really does depend on what's going on in the airline reservation system.
So, working with the airlines and making some process changes with how we handle it, we are working actually in advance of Secure Flight to try to meaningfully address that problem so people don't have to wait until Secure Flight.
I mean, is this real time? We have a global event coming up in the Olympics, where a lot of people with a lot of different types of names are going to be moving around the world, some coming through U.S. airports. Do you believe that we are in a position by the time that the Olympics start, to be able to screen people efficiently and effectively.
I do. I think another part of this, the Terrorist Screening Center, has announced, and we have supported and helped with reducing the actual names on the watch list, to scrub it and re-scrub it to have it be the smallest possible, which obviously gets at the root cause.
I am highly confident that anybody who should be caught by the filter is going to be caught by the filter. The consequence of course is, as you note, with many configurations of names, it is possible to misidentify people. So that is a challenge, and I'm not sure that that effort that I just described, to get ready before Secure Flight, will be ready in fact for the Olympics. But, clearly, we have a lot of plans across the U.S. government for the Olympics to make them successful.
Thank you, Assistant Secretary.
Mr. Verdery, you represent the National Business Travelers Association, which has extensive experience with the transportation system. To what extent have they been impacted by problems with the use of screening programs?
I have seen increasing cases of misidentification. Most of the times, it's just the fact that people have the same names, common names, and that the TSA and other screening agencies just don't have enough information to differentiate the people on the spot.
We did a survey earlier this year and found that there was a large number of people, of companies, that had had employees in this situation. Many of them had used the DHS TRIP program. Those that had used it found it successful, but not enough people knew about it.
And in addition to Secure Flight, which I support and hope will move quickly. Customs and Border Protection sees lots of people every day at land borders and air borders and people are screened for other purposes, whether it's buying guns or other purposes you can imagine coming down the pike for registered traveler programs and registered other programs.
So that's why we've been very supportive of your bills, to codify TRIP and expand it and provide it the resources. We think a program of this magnitude deserves an authorization, and so we've been happy to work with your office and hope that the committee will move forward on it.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The gentlelady's time has expired.
It's now my pleasure to yield five minutes to the ranking member, Mr. Lungren.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and I was glad that I could get back while we're still going on and before we have a vote.
Let me ask the four of you, one of the controversial programs that was started a number of years ago was the Federal Flight Deck Officers Program, which allows officers, that is, pilots and copilots, when properly trained, to carry weapons onboard in the cockpit. Do any of you have any problems with the continuation of that program?
No, sir, I find it very effective security.
GAO hasn't reviewed this program. DHS I.G. has. They identified some positives and then also some areas for improvement.
I'm supportive of the program, sir. If anything, I think it should be expanded. My understanding is that there's still only one training facility in New Mexico.
I think the number of training facilities should be expanded. I think more pilots ought to be allowed to participate in this program. Furthermore, my understanding is that they have to pay their own lodging and food expenses, so anything to increase the ranks, with proper training, of course, is something that I'd very much support.
I support it, although I get worried with all the tarmac delays of what kind of mood the pilots are in.
I would ask all four of you, then, we're now taking a retrospective of the first five years of TSA. We're looking forward. What would be your one or two top priorities going forward with TSA?
To work with the Congress to have the imagination and courage to step beyond the got-you mentality, to go at proactive security and I think support our officers in the training and their ability to act nimbly. I think that would be number one.
A few. Implementing a biometric identification system for airports nationwide to restrict access to restricted areas within airports. And then also TSA making final decisions about what to do in terms of screening airport employees -- they have a pilot right now -- having made a final decision on how they're going to address that vulnerability. And then, finally, moving forward on their strategy for doing 100 percent screening of air cargo, making sure that their plans are solid and that they have controls in place to make sure that it's working properly.
I would largely agree with Ms. Berrick, sir. I think it's absolutely critical and I'm pleased by what Secretary Hawley said today about expanding the deployment of technologies like multi-view X-ray technology and backscatter. I'd like ideally to see that deployed at every checkpoint, at least at our major airports in the country as quickly as possible. And I would support further appropriations to TSA to facilitate that. That's the only way, ultimately, that we can increase these performances on these undercover tests.
Secondly, as Ms. Berrick said, air cargo, I think it's essential that we move forward on 100 percent screening and that all that screening be done by TSA personnel. And then, third and finally, as she said, I'm very concerned about the fact that we're not routinely screening all airport workers other than pilots and flight attendants.
Three quick ones. One is making sure to align your authorizing requirements with the appropriators. We're getting a little bit out of whack with authorizing language coming down that can't be funded or isn't being funded. And that leaves Mr. Hawley and his successors in the impossible position of mandates that they just don't have money to go fulfill.
Second, your jurisdictional argument you made, I think I've personally appeared before 22 of the subcommittees out of the 86 that have some jurisdiction over DHS. It's unconscionable, even the hearings that you see is just the tip of the iceberg of oversight that just swallows up so much time by the secretary on down. It has to be streamlined.
And third is use of biometrics, mobile biometric equipment, especially, in a range of applications, whether it's access controls, employee screening or the construction of an exit program for US- VISIT.
Mr. Hawley, if I could switch gears a moment, we talked a lot about aviation but surface transportation and rail, there is a responsibility in your TSA to come up with rules with respect to HAZMAT, and I know you share that with DOT. And I know DOT's rulemaking, I believe their work that they've done is I think before OMB right now. I wonder, where is TSA with respect to it? As I understand it, you focus on where the highly HAZMAT cars are attended and where they're handed off between railroads or between a railroad and a shipper, as opposed to DOT's responsibility. Can you give us an update as to where you are with rulemaking on that?
I believe it's undergoing administration clearance. We have a very -- it's the same things we talked about pipelines -- a very close relationship with the Federal Rail Administration, and we do in fact look at particularly the HAZMAT cars, wherever they may be. Our particular focus is to get them out of areas, standing still and, particularly, unattended. So that's the center of our target area that we want to keep them out of there.
But we have to be able to identify where they are if indeed there is, particularly a terrorist threat, we need to know where the cars that might be targets are. And that's something that we share with DOT.
Thank you very much, and thank you.
And thank the ranking member.
The gentleman's time has expired. I yield five minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Colorado, Mr. Perlmutter.
Thanks, Madam Chair.
And, Secretary Hawley, a couple months ago you and I attended a conference out in Denver about the employee screening and I think under the 9/11 bill there are seven airports that are selected as models or pilots, thank you, for this employee screening.
Can you tell us where we are on that?
Yes, I believe they'll start next month, in May, including in Denver. And we'll have an answer for the Congress by the end of the year.
The chairwoman and I and a couple of others visited Colorado last summer, where we were at the Transportation Technology Center and, as part of that 9/11 bill, we also authorized Pueblo, Colorado, Transportation Technology Center, to be one of the centers of learning for transportation security.
Are you familiar with that at all? Do you know where we are on that?
I'm familiar with the center. I'm not exactly sure what aspect of that we're driving at. I can certainly check...
The goal was to put together some training facilities there that not only focused on safety, which was more the transportation side of it, but also to develop some security measures as, for instance, subways or trains that might be subject to sabotage in some fashion or another. I know that that's now part of our whole six or seven training centers. What's it called, consortium? The national consortium.
I can't spell, either. I guess I can spell national. I can't spell consortium. I can. I really can.
We won't test you today.
Would you check on that for us?
Last question, or I guess I can have a couple more, Congress has appropriated a significant amount of funding to DHS and TSA for research, development, test and evaluation and deployment of checkpoint screening technology since 9/11, yet when I read your papers, I think that only two new technologies have been deployed.
Is there anything in particular blocking the development of the new technologies? And maybe other members of the panel have some comments on this.
I think if I got a couple extra on Mr. Lungren's question about things for the future, I think the way the capital markets deal with security technology is a massive problem in that we get an appropriation from Congress to buy certain things and there are companies that step forward and say, yes, I've got those and we'll take your money.
However, there is a vast scientific community in the world, and certainly in the United States, who, if we could get them engaged earlier in the process to present new ideas and new technology to us, we'd be able to move a whole lot faster.
So I think there is an acquisition-based mentality about purchasing security equipment that does hold us back. Having said that, I did say we are rolling out the A.T. now at an additional 580 machines this year, 30 new millimeter wave, 200 new of the liquid bottle scanner. We'll have by the end of the year over 900 handheld new explosive detection devices.
So we are moving it out, but I think it could move faster.
The GAO has reported on checkpoint technologies and we have reported that the deployment of these has been slow, I think slower than TSA anticipated. The explosive trace portals were deployed. There were maintenance and performance issues with those. The deployment was halted. The liquid bottle scanners were also deployed.
Now, in the coming year, there's going to be a lot more deployments. Some of those technologies have also been delayed due to performance and maintenance issues. Some of the causes we identified were coordination problems between DHS S&T. They do have a memorandum of understanding that they've been signed and I think coordination has improved.
Also, Congress mandated that TSA develop a strategic plan for their strategy for deploying technologies. TSA hasn't yet delivered that, although they can articulate, obviously, a strategy for moving forward on checkpoint technologies. We're going to be issuing a comprehensive report on how to improve the process of fielding technologies in a couple of months.
Madam Chair, I yield back.
I thank the gentleman. His time has expired.
I have a few more questions. I yield myself five minutes. I note the ranking member does.
But let me try to be very pointed with this line of questioning and also rapid fire. Some of the answers, I may ask for you to put them in writing and I may also abbreviate your answers, and I apologize for that.
As we indicated, we are grateful for the employees, and we should not be questioned about our commitment to the duty of the employees and the leadership because we're asking questions that will further enhance the security of this nation.
So I am concerned, Assistant Secretary Hawley, about the GAO's high-risk list that some of the aspects of your department are engaged in. And my question is, just quickly, are steps being taken to remove the TSA from high-risk areas, according to GAO?
Yes, a number of the recommendations made from the GAO reports we agree and have taken action on. And I think Ms. Berrick mentioned air cargo, a study that they did in recommending that we evaluate an international air cargo regime and we have in fact done that, and in fact that is the direction that we're headed.
But, in your tenure, do you believe that you can answer all the questions that placed in these aspects of your department on the at-risk list? Is that something that you're looking to achieve?
We're addressing all the issues on the programs we have. We cannot get them all solved in this immediate time, because very many of the recommendations have to do with building long-term, sustainable processes that take time and actually taking the time to do it right. But I think that's the way to go.
Would you please give me maybe your resolutions and your status in writing -- I'd appreciate that -- to the committee?
I also would like to just hear a yes or no answer. There is a transition, there are presidential elections coming up. Is TSA in particular looking at the transition and preparing a road map so that there is no gap in leadership from the time of transition from one administration to the next.
Yes, can I give a short...
The deputy administrator is a career official who's been in the business 30 years, one of the founders of TSA. Our senior leadership team has been meeting for over a year without me to prepare for this and there are three political appointees at TSA, so I view our preparations as complete.
Would you provide that to this committee in writing, as well? I think it's a very serious issue.
I believe that we should look at all aspects of information askance, but I do believe that information in the media provides an important opportunity for information that we should have. And, as you well know, and you indicated, that we may have not had all of the accurate facts regarding the CNN story on the U.S. air marshals, the Federal Air Marshal Service, but can we not at least admit or concede that there have been discussions about morale and discussions about work conditions that need to be improved?
And my question to you is does any of that impact the security of this nation and, as the person who has oversight over that service, the air marshals, what unique changes are being made to ensure, one, that there is an expanded coverage of our airlines, particularly when we see airlines getting larger and larger, by merger, and that we improve the work conditions.
And I'd like Mr. Ervin, if he is in any sense aware, even from the time he was at the Department of Homeland Security, how we can fix some of the factors that are in the Air Marshal Service.
When I came into the job, one of my top priorities was people of the federal air marshals, that the agency was stood up quickly. And Dana Brown, who is the director, has that as his top priority. And he's been in the job two years now and they have had extensive outreach, extensive changes. And I think if you were to visit widely with the Federal Air Marshal Service, as I do, as you know. I do these town halls, and there is definitely an uptick in opening and opening communication and their mission importance is unbelievable and I think that raises morale, as one of the most important tools the secretary has across the board for counterterrorism.
And so the VIPERs, some of these things are addressing issues such as I don't want to be stuck in a plane my entire career. Give me some additional things where I can use my brain and keep fresh. And we've done that and I think the results show it.
Well, I want to publicly say on the record that I'd like to have a meeting with a number of the front-line air marshals that are actually flying. And I hope that you would give them the privilege of speaking clearly and openly. I do think that is a concern.
They're law enforcement officers and they have attention to order. We have not been able to get directly the actual impressions of many of them, and I'd hope maybe to invite you and have them feel free to be able to express their concerns, which deal with ours, which deal with transfers, time off, but more importantly, all of that impacts the security of this nation.
Would you, Mr. Ervin, comment? You were enthusiastic about the Flight Deck Officers Program, but I must raise the question that there was an unfortunate accident that occurred by a gun going off by one of the pilots, one of the major airlines. There is some suggestion that the equipment is not appropriate. Did you see any need for changes or oversight that we can do better.
I happen to believe training, the right kind of equipment, it may not be the best kind of equipment, and the training process may be fractured or may be failing, and we can't afford those kinds of accidents any time it is used. We hope it is not used, but we certainly hope it is used both in need, but also that it's used successfully, a weapon that a pilot may carry. Can you speak to the air marshals, as well as the issue dealing with the flight deck officers carrying guns?
Certainly, Madam Chair. Thank you for the opportunity to do that. Certainly, I deplore that accident, and there is no question but that with regard to the Federal Flight Deck Officers Program there's got to be adequate training. That's why I mentioned there is still only one training facility, as I understand it. That's got to be expanded. Training has got to be...
So you would suggest that one of our investments should be another training facility.
Absolutely. In theory, the program is a great one and it can serve to supplement the air marshal program, so to segue into that...
And should we also look at the equipment that they use? It may not be well suited for the flight deck.
Absolutely. There is no question but that we need to do that. I'm simply saying that in theory the program is a good one and it can amplify the air marshal work force. And with regard to air marshals, I was very careful in my testimony to say that this was a CNN report.
I hope Secretary Hawley is right that the overall coverage is more than 1 percent, but obviously we can't talk about that in any detail in open session. I just urge the subcommittee to verify what Mr. Hawley has said. I hope he's right. I expect that he's right, but to verify that by calling on either GAO or the inspector general to do a classified investigation of the matter.
We have to have 100 percent coverage of at least the highest-risk flights into and out of our largest cities and as much coverage as possible of the other flights in the country. And if we need to supplement the work force with additional current and retired law enforcement personnel, military personnel, we ought to do that.
And would you hold to the fact that morale, work conditions, is certainly a key responsibility of this committee in terms of oversight, but, more importantly, plays very keenly into the security of our nation in terms of how air marshals either are staffed and/or what their conditions are, what the level of their performance is at the time that they are on the job? All these elements, I think, have to be improved.
Absolutely. Morale is a huge issue, not just with regard to pilots and with regard to air marshals, but also with regard to transportation security officers. Morale is a security issue in the post-9/11 world.
I have one more question and it goes to this continuing challenge that we have on the 100 percent inspection of cargo. You know the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 wants or dictates to screen 50 percent of air cargo transported on passenger aircraft within 18 months and 100 percent within three years.
Here's my dilemma, and this is to Assistant Secretary Hawley, is that I understand that you have been aggressively moving a program to screen all major airport activities. I understand the program is relying heavily on the use of X-ray technologies.
I think you know there has been significant concern by passenger cargo carriers and their customers that the current screening process, and to some degree the use of X-ray technology has been ineffective, may cause some delays. I am committed to 100 percent screening. Our ranking member has indicated we may need to look at this and how we move it, but I am committed to technology. And I'm interested in what technologies TSA is considering.
What is the internal process used to test and certify such technologies, given the rapidly approaching 2010 deadline for 100 percent cargo screening? What is TSA's time line to implement new cargo screening methods? And are you looking at the vast array of technology?
For example, I had the opportunity to visit a major passenger cargo carrier facility and I personally witnessed the loading and unloading of cargo. But, during that visit, I saw not only the carrier's current cargo screening process, was able to see new technology on the premises that were being demonstrated by a small, minority-owned company, and you know that this committee, the large committee, is focused on these opportunities for looking for good technology, efficient and effective.
I later discovered that it was the carrier that expressed an interest in this new technology, not TSA, that the technology has either been reviewed by TSA but certainly has not been approved by TSA because of the layered and complex approval process.
Is TSA relying on carriers to source new technologies and set standards for treating (ph) cargo? If so, what direction, if any, is TSA giving the carriers? It seems TSA has placed the responsibility squarely on the carriers. And what efforts are you making to move internally technology through the process, so that if it is good, if it does work, it can be implemented and be a partner with TSA to meet our goal of 2010 for 100 percent screening?
Yes, before giving the detailed answer, I think both you and the ranking member talked about being part of the solution and cooperatively working together, and I think air cargo is a perfect example, where I remember contentious hearings on this topic in the past. And we worked very hard together to arrive at a solution where now our conversations, we agree on the goal. And now it's on the oversight of how we are to implementing it, so I think that is a very positive thing.
As to the technology, last week, we put out to the airlines the list of technologies that they can go ahead and buy now and start screening with. And we've worked with some of the cargo intermediaries, 60 of them, I think, and we've got about $12 million, where we're going to help to use that as seed money to get them to -- it answers the question Mr. Ervin raised in his testimony about getting the intermediaries to step up and start screening.
We can see that X-ray is not always the best technology for this.
That's correct, and we're looking at ways. The biggest problem is getting palletized freight, once it's already built up into a pallet, to do effective screening of that. And if we could do that at palletized, it would open up more opportunities at the airport, whereas today what we're trying to do is get them while they're still in boxes screened before they're put into pallets and then secure it before it gets to checkpoint.
Does that mean the idea of this new technology that I was able to visit, or to see, rather, and it might be occurring in airports or cargo areas around the nation, is there a streamlined and expedited process that you can then expedite the review and assessment of whether these are credible new technologies and get them out there, working?
Yes, this is probably the area I'm most personally involved with on the air cargo program is the opening up of the accessible technologies to get at it. So it's something very, very high priority for me.
Well, I would like to direct these individuals that are scattered across the nation to a system that really works. And I would ask for, again, in writing for the committee, what the process is for streamlining assessment of technologies, what is the array of technologies that you are using beyond X-ray and, I guess, your assessment of the ability to reach our goal by 2010.
I think asking the question on December 31st, 2009, is not going to be helpful to whether or not we get 100 percent screening. It's in the law now and it is certainly something that we should try to establish. So I would ask for a full, if you will, reporting on that and that assessment.
Let me indicate that the ranking member have additional questions, and at this time I'll yield to him.
Thank you very much. First of all, just a comment on the episode with the one flight deck officer. That's one out of many.
Now, we've been briefed on how many there are and how many flights and so forth, but we can't say that in public. All I can say is that was one out of very many, and that's not a bad record.
I can say for that holster, which has been in use for a little under two years, there have been over a million flights with that holster without a problem. I think the problem is not the holster.
That's not bad, one out of a million. That's kind of the record we set around here in Congress. We make one mistake out of a million. We kind of like that.
And then, for the federal air marshals, let's be honest, that is a tough job from the standpoint of morale. You're flying on airplanes and there's no trouble, you go on an another airplane, there's no trouble. You go on another airplane, there's no trouble.
I mean, any of us who have any family members who have ever been in law enforcement know about law enforcement. I mean, you can go through boring times and then you have some exciting times. Then you go through some boring times. Thank God, in most cases, our federal air marshals get no exciting times.
So, I know, Mr. Hawley, you have tried to do some other things which allowed them, perhaps, to take on some other responsibilities on a rotating basis, and I know you've gotten some criticism for that, as well. But I understand that's an immediate challenge.
Let me ask you a question that was brought up by the written testimony of Mr. Ervin, and the was talking about the behavior detection program and concern that there's adequate training such that we don't have a problem of either racial profiling or ethnic profiling. And the reason why I think it would be good for you to make some observations on that is just this weekend I was with some people who have nothing to do with law enforcement, nothing to do with TSA, not in politics and they were talking about that one incident, which they thought was very positive. But they say, how do you make sure there isn't that kind of profiling? I tried to explain it to them, but maybe you could, for the record.
I think it's a very legitimate question, because it is one of the best pieces of security we have, and we need to make sure that it withstands all of the tests so that we can keep using it. And we have a very disciplined program at TSA for how we do it and measure it and track it.
However, I've asked for a full civil rights, civil liberties review of the program, independent review, to lay out, so that people will have some confidence in this question, so that it's not just me answering the question that we have disciplines in it, that we'll have an outside look. And I think it's very important that the credibility of the program be strong, because it is so much more effective than trying to find little scraps of metal on an X-ray image 2 million times a day.
So having that behavior-detection layer is a critical piece of the total security package.
Is it not true that the Israelis have used that for years as an effective means of their screening program, particularly at the airports?
Yes, and ours is different in some respects from theirs, and certainly law enforcement has used it over many, many years in different forms. Our approach is that we have it constrained very tightly and disciplined, so that we're able to explain why this spot intervention was made and why that one wasn't, so that it's clear it's not based on race or any other thing.
Now, I presume that you are -- well, I hope you are constantly updating it such that you're taking information from the intelligence community and other episodes around the world that would give you up-to-date information on kinds of things people would be attempting to do, and therefore behavioral responses to those duties, terrorist duties, that they might be embarking on.
We are indeed. There are two parts of it. One is this training I mentioned in my opening statement, that we're doing 12 hours' worth of training for everybody, and a large part of that are things that we've learned on the behavioral side and then how terrorists approach and try to do distractions, et cetera.
The other is locking in the document checker with the behavior detection, so that that is a way, because you're going to be able to talk to the individual at the document checker. So the behavior person will identify somebody they want a little extra attention to and then the document checker can check the documents and have a conversation, so locking all that together.
Well, that's why they took so much time with me at Dulles Airport just two weeks ago.
Let me just ask all four of you, very quickly, are we doing a good enough job -- and I'll start with Mr. Verdery and move in reverse order. Are we doing a good enough job in leveraging the private sector in this? In other words, are we doing a good enough job of making sure that the private sector is part and parcel of our effort?
We spend a lot of money on budget and everything else. And, of course, I keep thinking of registered travelers being one possibility where the private sector works to complement what the public sector is doing. And I'm not talking about the bells and whistles, but I'm talking about some additional information and so forth that they might have. And, if we're not, do you have any suggestions about how we could do a better job of leveraging the private sector's participation in this overall effort?
Well, on the equipment procurement side, as Mr. Hawley mentioned, it is a problem that the budgetary ways of Congress of allocating money year to year doesn't match up with kind of the buying equipment that is very expensive and takes many years to recoup that investment, so that's a problem on how things are purchased, especially in an era when TSA's budget is essentially flat.
Over the last couple of years, more and more money, more and more DHS money is being sucked up by CBP and ICE on immigration enforcement. I won't argue about the relative merits of it, but it's a fact.
I do think, with working on the private sector, we're going to see two big things come together as what we're going to do with Registered Traveler, and I spoke to that in my statement. I'm supportive of it and would like to see it expand. And then what we're going to do on the exit program for US-VISIT, which we understand the rule that's going to be promulgated imminently. And the question is are you going to ask the airlines to do this? Are you going to allow Registered Traveler providers to take care of this, or is TSA going to take responsibility?
We know what the administration wants to do is to have the airlines do it, but they're an unwilling recipient of the football here, and so it's going to be a rulemaking, we'll have to fight it out. But those two issues are going to come together at the checkpoint, where you have private sector equities in play and it's going to require some tough decisions as to who has the responsibility and who can do things the most efficiently.
I just want to remind the witnesses, we're going to have votes in five minutes, and if your answers could be concise, thank you.
I'll be very brief. Mr. Lungren, it's really difficult to give a short answer to that question. It's a very big question. I'd agree with what Mr. Verdery said about Registered Traveler. I'm a supporter of that program. It's a very good example of a partnership between TSA and the private sector.
As he said, I think that the contracting procedures are too cumbersome, in that they ought to be streamlined so that smaller businesses in particular can bring to the fore technologies that they have developed. On the flip side of it, though, I would stress that I don't think we should outsource security to the private sector, and so that's why, as I highlighted in my testimony, I've been concerned about this notion that airlines should be allowed to police themselves with regard to this 100 percent cargo requirement. I think that's going in the wrong direction.
The whole point of creating TSA after 9/11 was the recognition that, left to their own devices, airlines won't police themselves.
I think partnerships have significantly improved since GAO started looking at aviation security five years ago, both in aviation and surface modes of transportation. Some quick examples on aviation: I think TSA is putting a lot more focus on coordinating with international partners in other countries. I think that's a great success story.
Also, passenger pre-screen, matching passenger information against terrorist watch lists, TSA is doing a much better job coordinating with air carriers. On the surface modes of transportation, TSA has really reached out this past year and a half to work with stakeholders on surface modes of transportation and work collaboratively with them, which wasn't always the case prior to that.
One area to focus on, I think, related to partnerships is in surface modes of transportation. I mentioned in my opening statement that the 9/11 act has a lot of requirements for TSA to implement and also the transportation operators to implement for security.
TSA has about 100 inspectors to do a lot of work. We've heard from TSA and also from transportation operators that they're concerned these inspectors are really going to be taxed. It's going to be hard for them to implement all of these requirements to check security programs, to check training programs. So I think that's one area of focus that TSA should focus on moving forward.
In 280 days, I shall be returning to the private sector, going back to California. And I know from my previous experience in the private sector, I would not even consider doing business with the government, because it was just too complicated, too slow, too many requirements. And I think that is a problem that the business community, the private sector outside of the Beltway, be brought into the game a little bit more in terms of thinking about the marketplace for the public through the government. I think that is a very important thing we need to do.
And I would disagree with Mr. Ervin's comment in terms of I think we have to work with our private sector partners. They are part and parcel of security, and you don't want TSA officers everywhere, but we need to have every airline employee, every airport employee, mass transit -- all private sector, public sector, and even passengers, actively engaged in the security process.
And whether or not it's natural, it has to be a part of the security package of this country.
Let me thank all the witnesses.
Ranking Member, I was going to interrupt Secretary Hawley and rule him out of order when he said that he'd be departing in 280 days. But we thank the witnesses. In conclusion, let me just simply say, Mr. Hawley, I hope you will go back. We appreciate the private sector involvement, but it is my view that the cargo process needs technology approved by TSA and utilized by TSA and to have the oversight that Mr. Ervin has spoken about.
I also want to take note that I believe that we've made great strides with the U.S. federal air marshals, but there is more work to be done. And we appreciate an accident and one shot, but we would like to think that we'd want to ensure that those kinds of accidents are diminished, because any suggestion that we must not be worried leaves us vulnerable to what could happen in flight.
And so I would ask for your response to the committee's questions on the oversight of this Flight Deck Officer Training Program and the U.S. marshals program and, as well, I think one of the issues Ms. Berrick has mentioned that's very important, the perimeters of the airport and the IDing of the employees coming on, working with the employees and unions.
Let me also say that this committee will have a field hearing on the issue of mass transportation and so we are concerned about those issues. We thank the ranking member and the members who are here.
I thank the witnesses for their valuable testimony and the members for their questions. The members of the subcommittee have additional questions for the witnesses.
We will ask you to respond expeditiously in writing to those questions.
Hearing no further business, thanking the ranking member and the committee members, the subcommittee stands now adjourned.
CQ Transcriptions, April 15, 2008
List of Panel Members and Witnesses
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, D-TEXAS CHAIRWOMAN
REP. EDWARD J. MARKEY, D-MASS.
REP. PETER A. DEFAZIO, D-ORE.
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, D-D.C.
REP. YVETTE D. CLARKE, D-N.Y.
REP. ED PERLMUTTER, D-COLO.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, D-MISS. EX OFFICIO
REP. DAN LUNGREN, R-CALIF. RANKING MEMBER
REP. GINNY BROWN-WAITE, R-FLA.
REP. GUS BILIRAKIS, R-FLA.
REP. PAUL BROUN, R-GA.
REP. PETER T. KING, R-N.Y. EX OFFICIO
KIP HAWLEY, ADMINISTRATOR, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
CATHLEEN BERRICK, DIRECTOR, HOMELAND SECURITY AND JUSTICE ISSUES, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE
CLARK KENT ERVIN, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY,
STEWART VERDERY JR., MONUMENT POLICY GROUP, LLC