WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration must hire additional officers to alleviate long lines at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and other airports across the country, the head of the union representing Transportation Security Officers said today.
“Reports of routine hour-long waits in security lines and missed flights are the result of reckless budget cuts and a refusal on the part of TSA to make full staffing a priority,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.
Some Sea-Tac officials are threatening to consider privatization as a response to complaints about ridiculously long lines. But sacrificing safety by hiring rent-a-cops at even lower wages than TSA pays its officers is the opposite of what we should be doing.
“Privatizing security screening means going back to pre-9/11 standards. Unaccountable, untrained screeners employed by profit-hungry contractors won’t make the lines shorter, but it will definitely make flying less safe,” Cox said.
“The problem is simply that TSA hasn’t hired enough officers for the record number of passengers that large airports are seeing. The only safe way to shorten wait times is to hire more Transportation Security Officers. It’s as simple as that,” said Hydrick Thomas, AFGE TSA Council President.
TSA currently has only about 42,000 officers on the job. The White House requested funding in the 2017 budget to hire an additional 470 officers, and TSA has increased the request to 1,000 new officers in response to complaints about long lines. However, neither number is adequate to meet current requirements.
TSA is able to hire up to 45,000 officers under an arbitrary budget cap set by Congress, yet the agency doesn’t even hire up to the cap – preferring to let passengers stand in line and endure long waits.
Faced with TSA’s inability to staff its security lanes, large numbers of disgruntled passengers, and a lack of response from TSA leaders, the head of the Sea-Tac Airport has publicly discussed requesting approval to replace TSA officers with private security contractors. Sea-Tac is the 13th busiest airport in the country and the fastest growing, with passenger volume up 13 percent last year.
“The frustration of passengers at Sea-Tac is understandable. They are forced to wait an hour to get through security at peak times, all while looking at empty security lanes that are closed because there’s no staff to run them,” Cox said. “It’s only going to get worse as we get into the summer months and more people take vacations.”
“This situation isn’t good for the passengers or the employees, and it’s high time that TSA request the resources it needs to get more officers on the ground at Sea-Tac and elsewhere.”