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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  April 12, 2016 9:00am-10:01am EDT

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>> we coordinate with them, we integrate our teams with their teams, and we work to increase our ability to understand what might be happening out there, understand the threats and the vulnerabilities and then share that information in a way that allows us to deploy our resources most effectively. >> yesterday homeland security secretary johnson endorsed a new proposal by senate democrats to double the number of visibility intermodal prevention and response or vipr teams nationwide from 30 to 60. by contrast the president's fiscal 2016 budget request called for the elimination of two vipr teams and 23 related positions. in your written testimony you wrote the tsa vipr program has
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updated its concept of operations to focus on risk-based deployments. the question is, have the events of the last two months since the budget was released convinced the administration that doubling of the vipr program is needed to address current threats? >> i appreciate the attention congress is giving to tsa resources and i will tell you this, mr. chairman, if i were to receive more vipr teams, i would be aible to put them to use you an put them to use across the transportation system. i would be able to deploy them more effectively with our partners in the surface world and would deploy them to more public areas of our aviation environment. >> let me just ask one last question here in the year past year and a half, we have seen repeated abuses of airport cita badges that grant airport workers access to secure areas of the airport, badges used by airport and airline workers to bypass tsa checkpoints in this
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case facilitate criminal activities like gun and drug smuggling. these incidents raised a lot of questions whether our airports are vulnerable to an insider threat and as i mentioned earlier in response, along with our committee members, senator nelson's ayot, cantwell, johnson and klobuchar introduced the airport security enforcement and oversight act to help counter some of the aviation insider threats by improving the vetting, credentialing and nmgss of airport workers. do you think it's important to update and expand the criminal background checks and random inspections of airport workers that have access to the secure areas of an airport? >> mr. chairman, thanks for that question. as you know that's been a big concern over the time that i've been here, and as i came in, it was on the heels of the incident in atlanta and some other concerns. and as you noted in your opening statement we have hey some of the same concerns with respect to the attacks overseas. so i'm very pleased and happy
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that congress has given us the support that they have, so i think you're right to focus on that. the additional access -- this committee in particular was very supportive of our access to additional tide categories that made a huge difference in terms of current vetting. i'd like to see us fully implement the fbi wrap back program before the end of this fiscal year, so that we can do continuous recurrent criminal vetting and i think anything we can do to tighten the oversight of the insider population to verify their trusted status i think is worth doing. >> thank you. senator nelson? >> mr. chairman, i want to take the opportunity particularly to tell our democratic members of the committee that apparently we just received word that there has been an agreement on the tax issue and therefore if that is true, when we get to the floor in just 35 minutes, it looks
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like we're going to be able to proceed without that controversy that previously we had known about. so we ought to be able to get on the bill. i want to just piggyback on a couple of the points raised by the chairman. the gun running scheme showed tremendous vulnerability, especially 300 airports in the country, and lo and behold only two up to that point, only two had done a perimeter security, where they had reduced to a handful the number of entry points and had the adequate checking of the badges to make sure the airport employee was who they said they were, as well
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as checking in one of the machines the stuff that they brought in. things that were not done in atlanta that allowed over 100 guns to be transported into the airport, then the employee goes up into the sterile area into the men's restroom and transfers the weapons to a passenger who has come through security. atlanta has now complied so that's atlanta, miami, orlando. what about the rest of the 297 airports nationwide? >> senator, i had exactly the same question, and it was a wake-up call for atlanta as you noted, they put a lot of measures in place, the private sector employees -- >> what about the other 297? >> earlier this year i ordered a detailed vulnerability assessment across the entire
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system for those other airports that you mentioned. that assessment, the results of that assessment are coming in this month, and the purpose of that assessment was to answer that very specific question. first and foremost, what have you done, but what's the nature of your insider population, employers, what are they doing. >> that's the question, what is the answer? >> the answer there has been a lot of movement in terms of reducing security access points across the system. there's been a lot of movement to enhance the oversight of that insider population, both by tsa, as well as by the employers. >> a lot of movement. such as? >> what i'm going to have to provide to you in a report is once we evaluate, we add requirements into the aviation security, the airport security plans for each of those airports to take the best practices that we're finding from miami, from orlando, from atlanta, and to drive those into the other airports across the country.
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i was concerned that we hadn't had a lot of specifics on that. >> mr. administrator, the best practices are obvious. you have to check the airport employees, so as your testimony today, is it nothing's been done? >> no sir, that's not my testimony. we've done quite a bit. we are checking. tsa increased a number of inspections of employees by five-fold, just in the past five months and we do that ourselves. >> you don't have enough resources. >> the airports themselves -- >> you got to get the airports to do it. >> and they are doing that. airport by airport. >> give us the report. >> that's coming your way, way. i wanted to give you good specifics from these vulnerability assessments we conducted so i could give you specific answers airport by airport to exactly the question you're asking and those are due this week as a deadline for getting those in. we'll compile a report and get it to the committee. >> why couldn't that have been
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done in time to the report to this committee since that was such an obvious question that you were going to be asked? >> the answer i would have to you is that i didn't have, i felt, adequate specifics to satisfy this committee on the specific measures taken so that's why we went back and i ordered a very specific vulnerability assessment, airport by airport. it was done a short time frame in conjunction from the recommendation of aviation advisory committee and so i could give more specific answers and provide specific direction with respect to the requirements we'll put in place. that said we have greatly enhanced the oversight and airports have greatly enhanced their oversight already. it's not as if nothing's been done. i want to know exactly what has been so we can ensure consistency across the entire system. >> mr. administrator, you have a
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ste rile, sterling reputation. it's not sterile. it's sterling. you have a sterling reputation but that's an insufficient answer in a flaem has been begging now for two years and the only person to get the airports off their duff to limit access into their airports is going to be you and your administration. >> yes, sir. >> i realize that you can say that you have a specific jurisdiction of requiring security checks on who's going on the plane but what about the stuff which may be getting on the plane which may be the same thing so you have to go for a different perimeter. >> we do that i'm sorry if i've
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given the impression nothing's happening. that's not true. we've greatly enhanced our oversight of cargo screening facilities, the catering facilities. there are quite a few measures in place, i'll provide a specific outline of those for the record but it's oversight of the caterers, the catering facilities, oversight of the cargo, the way in which the cargo is inspected, the multiple steps which we're inspecting cargo that wasn't done before. the amount of perimeter security checks that weren't done before, the reduction in the perimeter security entrances into each of the airports covered by airport security plans. so a lot has been done. what i was referring to, i wanted to give detail airport by airport and i asked for much more detail so i could outline it specifically and move that into the required security plans in an official and directed way. >> i'll just close, mr. chairman
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by saying this. it's pretty simple. you lessen the number of entry points, like atlanta had over 100 down to a handful. and you check the employees going through. you can't do that just as tsa. you've got to get the airports -- >> yes, sir. >> -- to do that, and that's the report that we want to know in our oversight capacity. >> yes, sir. >> how many airports of the 300 following the lead of miami, which did it ten years ago, have done this to watch so that something like egypt and the russian airliner doesn't happen here. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, senator nelson. i couldn't agree more. i think it points out the need for senate bill 2361 which i hope we can move.
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but as you can tell, this is an issue that we screen passengers getting on planes, but there are so many examples now of airport workers with badges that are committing criminal acts and this is an area that i think we've just got to shore up. so thank you, senator nelson. senator aayotte? >> thank you, chairman. i want to add i hope with the if, aa reauthorization on the floor that we will get the airport security enhancement and oversight act perhaps added to that, because i think it makes a lot of sense to do that, in light of some of the concerns that we have in this committee and the broad support in this committee for that bill. but i wanted to follow up on this issue as well on the angle of we know that one of the things that came to light that was of deep concern as we thought about the airport workforce was that there were 73 individuals that the inspector general had identified with
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reported some ties to terrorism or issues of concern, and as a result of that, we learned that, in fact, tsa was not getting access to the real time information from the terrorist' identified tied data to help inform your vetting of these employees that were having access to the airport, and so i wanted to get an update on where we are in terms of you getting access to the information that you need not only to says senator nelson has identified the materials that are being brought to make sure people are inspected but what information you have access to that you know about these individuals who have access at the airport that your average person doesn't have, obviously? >> senator, thank you for the question. as i noted earlier, this committee was very supportive in
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asking for that access, and i'm pleased to report that we now have access to all of the categories that we need to ensure that we're vetting people continuously against those tied categories, and that's allowed us to more effectively screen the credentialed population on a daily basis. >> that's going smoothly? >> it is, yes, ma'am. it is. >> very good, i'm glad to hear that. i wanted to ask about a bill that congress passed in december of 2014. i also serve on the homeland security committee and this bill was one that i supported, the transportation security acquisition reform act. this is legislation that required tsa to implement best practices and improve transparency with regard to technology acquisition programs because there have been a number of difficulties, challenges and failed programs that haven't come to fruition that prompted congress to pass this bill, and
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so i wanted to get an update on where you were in terms of greater accountabilities on tsa's acquisition process. >> that's a particular interest of mine as well when i came in. i had dealt with acquisition in the coast guard one of first things i did when i came on board last july is ask the defense acquisition committee to do a top to bottom review of our acquisition programs in the way we conduct them to look particularly for any gaps or processing improvements we could make. that just provided that report to you, took them about four and a half months or so to do that. i'm pleased with that report. we're now comparing those requirements against the requirements of the acquisition reform act and making process improvements as we go. what i'd like to to is i've got a report that we're xwilg now for the committee that will show
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the steps that we can take, i think, that will dramatically improve our accountability, our oversight, as well as the ability actually field capability when we need it. >> obviously that's the key because a lot of the work before wasn't fielding capability. >> that's my big concern. >> and spending dollars with no result. i'd love for us to receive that report so we can understand where we stand with it and what further action we can support you on to really improve the acquisition process. that's critical as you think about your mission and making sure that we have everything functioning with our security system. i also to just ask about the manage inclusion issue as i understand it and i'm pleased that this has happened that you discontinued manage inclusion two? >> yes, i have. >> which i think is very smart and logical given the purpose of
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your agency and security concerns and i just wanted to follow up the app that was being used that was, that certainly came under some criticism was was the app, i understand, this app essentially was, some reports that it was $1.4 million for using this, assuming you don't need this app anymore now that you've discontinued the manage inclusion two. >> we are not using that app. >> okay, was that one of those ones which would be an example where maybe we shouldn't have purchased that? seemed like wasted dollars to me. >> i looked at that. it really, it wasn't -- there was a lot more involved in that contract. aparentally with an ibm contract from 2013, and that covered that $1.4 million apparently covered quite a few components or things. so the actual app was significantly less cost in that,
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somewhere in the thousands. nonetheless -- >> we didn't need it. >> nonetheless it is not an app we're using anymore. i will tell you i have great concern over the way in which we are spending our contracting dollars, the way in which we're spending our acquisition money. why i did a complete review of the acquisition program. i think we can build controls and more process improvement into it so i can get capability out there at the lowest cost to the taxpayer but produces things we really need. >> i appreciate your focus on this. to me this is critical as we think about the things we do need to do at our airports that require resources and so not to waste resources on things we don't need. >> i couldn't agree more. >> i appreciate it, thank you. >> thank you, senator ayotte. senator cantwell? >> thank you mr. chairman and mr. nefger good to see you again. many of us participated in a closed door briefing that you gave us prior to the brussels attack, and i thought it was a pretty poignant briefing and
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post brussels there probably is important, mr. chairman, to do another one of these maybe in conjunction with homeland security or separate as the focus on aviation needs to continue. i wanted to ask you, mr. neff neffenger, i come from a border state and a lot of traffic moves between the u.s. and canada and we've always held the position that we have to have incredible security. in fact one of our border agents caught the millenial bomber on his way to come to the united states to either blow up lax or whatever his mission was, but a customs border person caught that individual. so we're very well aware of security but we're also very poignantly aware of efficiency. we need both. we need both in our system and we know that as a border state because of the amount of slowdowns. so my point is sea-tac is the fastest fwroeg hub in the country and experienced growth
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rates 7% in 2014, 13% in 2015 so we've had this map of planning for sea-tac which was to handle 19 million passengers, and last year we had 42 million passengers, so we have a plan for 19, we just had 42. so we have a problem at sea-tac. so my first question to you is, one, will you allow for localized regional training, because part of the issue is, with this new requirement of tsa officer training systems, where people are going to, yoerm -- >> in georgia. >> in georgia. we're about to hit this spring and summer and we have cruise ships >> yes, ma'am. >> that greatly impact the flow in the northwest. will you allow for a localized training so that those individuals can be trained? secondly, what information
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sharing do you think that we now need to do. we were successful getting the cantwell collins bill that allowed us to do the check-in. >> clearance. >> with the passengers over there. i'm fully supportive of that and we're so glad we got that in the customs bill. what else do we need to do? are you for the machine reading sharing helping those airport facilities have better machine capabilities? what lists should we share, and do you, i would assume, being the past roll in the coast guard, the coast guard's dogs have played a significant role protecting our ferry system. do you think we should be making a larger investment in that, and so that's a lot to answer. i really do have concerns about this app. i really think that you need a coalition of constant input on how to get efficiency, you know, paying this much for an app that we shouldn't -- but if you'll focus on the first questions.
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>> yes, ma'am, with respect to the training, we are going to do local training and you know, the idea -- >> at sea-tac? >> at sea-tac, yes, ma'am. we will address that. we have to mitigate what is going to be a challenging summer season pushing as many new hires as we can into the system, directing them to the airports of greatest need. sea-tac is one of those and ensuring we're working with the local airports and airlines that service those airports to identify the most efficient means of moving it through. that has to do with working with the airlines to understand their travel plans. >> thank you for that. that is very important. >> so we're going to do that. as we build capacity in training centers, so that we don't have to do this in the future. secondly, with respect to seattle, i'd be out there, as a matter of fact, next week, meeting with the airport director and local officials as well to look at the issues and just see how well this is going. i've been trying to do this with each of the major airports
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around the country. with respect to other resources that we might need, it really falls into the category of people training and technology. i think that i'm very interested in the way we do acquisition, because i need to evolve my technology faster than the threat is evolving, and i think there are things that we can do to ensure that happens. training i want to continue to build the tsa academy out so i can effectively train people to do what they do and on the people side -- >> are you for, just because i only have 20 seconds, are you for more list sharing and machine sharing with overseas -- >> yes, ma'am, i am. >> thank you. this is something, mr. chairman, i think the committee needs to spend a lot of time on, so thank you. >> thank you, senator cantwell. good points. senator mccaskill? >> thank you. we have spent an awful lot of time and money and energy focusing on the security of our aviation and airports, and i am not critical of that whatsoever, but the there remains i believe
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a fwaping hole in our security which has to do with foreign repair stations. i don't think most americans realize and by the way i've been talking about this since 0007, congress wanted faa, wanted tsa to have new security rules for stations. it took ten years, but we got a rule in 2014. there's shared jurisdiction here. faa is supposed to be certifying the safety of the foreign repairs stations. you are supposed to be certifying and overseeing the security of the foreign repair stations. i don't think most americans know that almost every domestic plane they're in is cared for, repaired, overhauled in foreign repair stations, including foreign repair stations in countries that are listed by the state department as countries that can be a haven for terrorists. now, i don't understand, since we have been talking about this since 2007, since i came to the senate, chaired a hearing on
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this in 2007, that the rule that you issued didn't even require background checks of people who work at foreign repair stations. there's no perimeter security at foreign repair stations. there's no alcohol and drug testing at foreign repair stations. so we've got one standard for machinists and others who work on airplanes in the united states, but if you want to take those jobs overseas, then all of a sudden it is like a sieve, and i am grateful that there has not been an incident, but i can't imagine why your agency has not -- and i know you've not been there, but i can't imagine why, in this rule, there would not be background checks of people working in countries like egypt on airplanes that are flying american passengers around the world. >> senator, i recently spoke to the aircraft repair association
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and they had one offier meetings here in the last couple of months, and we talked about the rule and we talked about what we do. just so you know, all of those people hold faa credentials. they're automatically vetted by us every day through terrorist screening databases and we vet them against the criminal databases as well so anything, so we vet them against the combined terrorist screening data base that looks at all of the people of interest around and concern around the world and -- >> so before they're hired, right now, when you're hired as a mechanic on domestic american airlines and you're working on a plane in egypt, you have a background check before you get on the premises? >> i can't speak to what exactly every individual employer does. i can tell you that if you get a credential from the faa or you apply for a credential from the faa, we're going to screen you before you can get that k credential and we'll determine whether or not you will be issued that credential.
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in my opinion that is the last step before you're actually hired before you can work on an aircraft that belongs to a u.s. flight carrier. >> well i am, would be thrilled to be proven wrong on this but it is my impression that you can get into these facilities and get near airplanes without a background check right now. and it is also my understanding that -- who is inspecting these facilities? who is physically going to the philippines and to egypt and -- it >> tsa does. we have our aviation inspector cadre, and they make regular and periodic rounds to each of these locations to enshoo you are they're complying with the standard -- >> i would love to see that schedule because i know if you had a repair station in the united states, there was an faa person almost on site. >> that's right and if, aa does the same. >> when i did this hearing before, most of this was being done by phone. they were not physically going to the facilities. so if that has changed, i would be really thrilled to hear that.
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i would love to know how often we're inspecting and i would also like to know, pause at the point in time we looked at this before, there was no effort even made on perimeter security at these facilities in these other countries, and you know, americans are pretty upset about jobs going overseas. i understand this is a global economy and we can't put a gun to company's heads and say you must keep jobs in america. on the other hand, if we have standards for safety and security for our flying public and the responsibility lies with your agency and the faa to make sure that the standards are just as rigorous you know, without a foreign agreement being in the way, they need to be just as rigorous in the locations where people are working on these airplanes on foreign soil, and my sense is that has not been the case, so if you've got information that will reassure me in that regard as to inspections, the ability of somebody to get on the premises and near airplanes, the ability to work hands on, on an
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airplane, if you can reassure me of the thoroughness of that, ten years to make the bill was not a confidence builder for me so i'd like to be reassured we are at a better place than we were when we started down this road when i arrived in the senate. >> let me get you a fuller answer. >> thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> sthth, senator mccaskill. senator hiller? >> i want to go back to this allocation of personnel and ask you a couple questions. first question i have is, when was the last time that you flew into las vegas airport? >> it's been -- it has not been since i've been administrator. >> recent, though, within the last couple years? >> within the last year. >> would you agree with me it's one of the fastest growing, busiest airports in the world? >> it is a very fast growing airport and you've seen some huge growth in passenger volume. >> we have. we had 3.4 million passengers
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going through mccarron in february this year. almost 9% growth of february previously 2015. and we're fgoing to anticipate o see this growth. can you explain to me why tsa reduced the number of agents at that airport by 110? >> i got that report and we've actually increased the allocation there so i'm not sure how that information got presented, but i went back and checked because i was concerned by the same number, and what i found is that we've actually increased the staffing. we've not reduced the numbers. we had some attrition that we have to backfill and sometimes it takes us a while to get people hired in. let me get you the exact numbers. if i laid it out i think i can see why that report was there, but it was really that we have higher attrition rates in some locations than i'd like to see and sometimes it takes time to backfill those positions but i don't believe we've actually reduced the numbers there, so i will, but let me get you what i
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show for numbers. >> if i could ask another question, it was promised that they would maintain ten canine units at that airport. today there's ohm one, i think there's one that's actually borrowed, but can you explain to me why there's a lack of the k-9 units promised to the airport? >> we have an allocation staffing model for k-9s. i can't meet all of the staffing that i'd like to see. i've said before this committee and others of congress that i will take more k-9 teams because i can put them to use. i think it's one of the most effective technologies we have out there. where i use them most effectively and las vegas is one of the locations, effectively move passengers through the screening environment. it's one of the best tools we have for moving people if tishtly throutisht efficiently through the linds, what we're trying to do at all
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the large airports. let me look specifically atlas vegas with regard to the team, i don't have the numbers off the top of my head and like to get back to you with whatever rationale we're using to deploy teams. >> i wanted to make sure it was not a hollow promise the ten k-9 units. >> from my perspective i'd like to grow the k-9 capability across the system. i think it's a hugely effective tool both for detection but deterrence as well. >> if i'm hearing correctly that you would -- i can go back to the administrators of that particular airport and say those 110 tsa personnel will be backfilled for whatever reason -- >> that is my understanding but i'll verify that. >> that they will receive the ten k-9 units. >> as i have them available. the challenge is the numbers. >> what would be the anticipated time line to get ten new k- s? >> we currently have about 1,000 total k- thes operating across the country, about 670 or so of
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those are deployed to local law enforcement. so that means there's a little over 300 teams that the tsa has itself. when i came on board in july we had is 12 for passenger screening. we should be up to 270 by the end of this fiscal year converted dogs, dogs who can do regular cargo screening and the passenger screening. i'd like to get all 320 teams converted by the end of the year. that will give me the ability to start moving teams back into locations that don't currently have them allocated. >> what do the teams do, sniff for drugs or -- >> they're exposed to sniffing canines and sniff for a large range of explosives. takes ten months to train a dog team. once trained they're incredibly effective. what they do if you notice in the airports they move up and down the passenger lines and they sniff for vapor and they trace the vapor back to its
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source. >> thank you for being here. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator heller. there are not many places that you can get direct falls from sioux falls, south dakota, but one of them is to vegas. so my constituents were adding to that number coming into and out of your airport this year. yes? >> could you give me one second to put something on the record that clarifies the previous testimony because i'm going to go vote. it's my understanding, from talking to my staff that researched this that the only certification at the foreign repair stations are supervisors and people who have authority to move the aircraft, which is only a fraction of the people that are working on these aircraft at foreign repair stations. my belief is, and you correct me after this hearing if i'm wrong and we'll correct the record. my belief is the vast majority of people working on the airplanes in foreign repair stations have not had a background check. >> i'll follow up, senator, thank you. >> thank you. >> senator gardner? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you both, mr. chairman and
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senator nelson for holding this hearing today and thank you administrator neffenge refor your time and service to this country. in your opinion denver recently. >> i was. >> a couple of weeks ago we received a letter from denver international airport my office did and talks about the attacks in brussels and underscoring the need to address the location of the tsa screening checkpoints at denver international airport and i think most people have had an opportunity to have a final departure from, destination of denver or have a layover in denver and understand this is the fifth busiest airport in the country, the 18th busiest in the world, and so this is a significant concern that they are sharing on the screening checkpoints in the great hall at dia. mr. chairman i ask i'd be able to submit this letter for the record. the ask permission to -- >> without objection. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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i just wanted to talk to you a little bit about the innovation task force initiative aimed at creating a modern passenger screening process with the goal of improving passenger screening. last week you toured tenor have international airport and talked about partnering perhaps with the tsa to serve and denver national airport as a prototype of modernized security screening. earlier this week i had an opportunity to tour the facility as well with the management leadership of denver international airport to learn about the details of the proposal. could you provide more information on tsa's plans with denver international airport? >> thanks for that question and we're very excited at what we could potentially to there. we're seeing as you know, huge travel volumes right now and at some point we reach capacity no matter what we could wido with current system. we're working hard to mitigate it using passenger screening k- thes and pushing over staff and saving overtime hours and the like.
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i'm convinced we need to find a more efficient ways of moving people through screening to reduce the pressure outside of the checkpoints as well as to improve the efficiency, while not changing the effectiveness of the program. so when kim day, the airport director, approached tsa and said we'd like to move your, the passenger screening checkpoints from the main hall floor up to what used to be the ticket counter area, it looked like it presented an opportunity to address that. and so that initial conversation turned into an opportunity to rethink the security environment of the airport, and for lack of a better term, think curb to gate, what can we do and it's as simple as just putting automated conveyor belts and rfid tags into the bins that you use, so that you can more effectively track carry-on baggage coming through the system and more efficiently move the baggage into the screen. it's astonishing how slow the line becomes because somebody has to push their stuff down the
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conveyor belt presenting multiple stations you can stand to put yourself into a bin so you're not just standing behind the guy who wore the combat boots today and waiting forever to take your time. that's one aspect of it. there's an evolution that has to happen. we're not going to get to the checkpoint of the future right away but we have an opportunity i think there, and so what we did is worked with denver airport to bring in the airline partners at that airport, so all of the airlines that service that airport are members of this team. we brought in the manufacturers teams as well as even the faa, and then local authorities to put together what we call the innovation task force to really do a white board on how you would recreate the screening environment, to reduce friction to the traveler and improve efficiency and effectiveness of the system, so in its biggest sense that's what the idea is, recognizing there are incremental steps to getting there but it gives us an opportunity to try some things and denver's been very
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forward-leaning in terms of their willingness to pilot new ideas. >> what steps can congress do to assist with the implementation of innovative task initiative at dia and across the country? >> i think -- this committee will get a report on what we're doing there that's part of the plan to outline the status. there may be opportunities for public/private partnerships we don't currently have the ability to do spiral test technology so you can feel it before you go through the long drawn out acquisition process and to reduce the potential cost penalty on the other end to do that. there are some things that we will be presenting to you as we learn more about how we might go forward that could provide some opportunity to open up pilot legislation that would allow us to try something different there that may in fact allow us to transform more of the system as we address what is the real
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problem now. >> thank you. the visit that i was able to take last week to see this entire empty floor space as part of the redevelopment of the hotel next to the airport presents an incredible blank slate of opportunity to innovate, test and create this laboratory of security that we need really at a major airport, a major u.s. airport to find the techniques, technology and security innovations to move us forward over the next decade and beyond as we see more passengers move through the system. >> i agree. it's a wonderful opportunity and solves some very real security problems in denver and points to how we could solve those elsewhere as well. we're excited about that and see it as an opportunity to do something very different. >> administrator, thank you very much for your time. mr. chairman? >> thank you. senator peters? >> thank you mr. chairman and thank you for your testimony here as well and thank you for the work that you do each and
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every day to keep us safe and my question follows up on a comment thaw made but something troubling to me when i had an opportunity to tour one of our large airports in the state of michigan and a potential vulnerability as we've talked a great deal about koreaning airport employees, koreaning what they may be bringing in but there's a concern there's a lot that goes into the airport for catering services, the restaurants, the newspaper stores, to have a stack of newspapers and put a weapon in between a stack of newspapers, whatever it may be, my understanding is interest is little or no screening of that happening and yet a great deal of material going in. you mentioned you are stepping up some of your catering security service protocols i believe in some of your earlier comments made during this hearing. could you give me a sense of what is done now, why have we
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not done more given the fact that that's a lot of stuff coming in, an employee could screen clear and then waiting for a packet of newspapers, to come with contraband in the middle of it, whatever that constra band may be. >> there's been a lot going on for quite some time. the stepping up piece was adding additional players of that but all of those items and all of that stuff that comes into an airport, all of the things you see in the stores of the airport are all examined in some manner at some point before they enter the sterile area of the airport. how do you inspect newspapers, magazines, water bottles and the like in addition to the catering and things that find their way onto the aircraft directly. what we added in the past nine months or so is additional times at which that's done and additional randomness associated with how that's done so that somebody can't get through a predicted layer of screening,
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only to find a way around it later on. so what i wanted to do was add a significant amount of random unpredictability into the system so at any given moment in any given part of a day if you're an employee and handling something or you have things that you're bringing in, that you can, that we create an expectation that somebody's going to stop and take a look at what you have. we've done that both with tsa personnel, as well as with airport security personnel and other folks. >> so you've implemented that now for material that's coming? >> right. we've been to be that for some number of months now but that is an ongoing thing that will stay ongoing because we find it to be a useful additional measure of uncertainty that you introduce into the system that will help us deter, detect and disrupt anybody who would attempt to do what they did in atlanta or other. >> in the report you're drafting now you will address that specifically and whether or not it is robust enough? >> yes, sir, we will.
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>> you'll report to us more information has resource implication that may be something we have to look at here in congress? >> yes, sir. >> i appreciate that. i've also heard from airports in my state that they want to have an opportunity to comment on some proposed tsa security regulations or directives before they're implemented. it has been their experience at least what they're telling me there's a discorrect between tsa officials crafting regulation and the airports who actually have to implement or at least assist you in implementing a lot of these regulations. they either think the tsa has taken a one-size-fits-all approach without with regard to different experienced threats at different airports and different sized airports and they believe certain security regulations or directives have the effect of assigning tsa responsibilities to airports without providing any additional funding to those airports, which can be a burden for them. to what extent do airports
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currently, are they able to comment on proposed security regulations or directives and how is that feedback taken by your agency, and can we do a better job in the future so i don't hear this from my airport managers? >> i'm going to say yes to all your questions. >> good. >> because i do think we can do a better job. i think we have done a better job recently and i'll speak to one example of that, but i think that's a valid complaint. i think it's very easy for any government agency to get so focused on its mission it forgets some of the impact that the discussions have. i see, so i like this idea of a full collaboration. this is a system. my job is tone sure that the system operates consistently and in a coordinated fashion, but some of the best information about security is held by the people who are running the system every day. that's the airports, that's the airlines, it's the people who operate in and around those airports, it's all those things that come together into an airport environment. so i've been very interested in expanding our collaboration.
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the aviation security advisory committee is a good entry point for me on that. they gave me a lot of that criticism when i first came on board and i think it was, from my perspective, i take it well because that's what i'm here to do. i see myself as the ultimate public service agency, we're probably the face of public service for the government. so long story short, when i discussed with senator nelson the work that we're doing to do the vulnerability assessments, we actually worked very collaboratively with the airports and the airport associations, the associations that represent the airports to craft that directive in a way that was, that was implementable, that was understandable and we actually took a lot of their advice in terms of how we is did that. in fact the first attempt i put out came back at me and we adjusted accordingly. so i think we've made good progress. there's lots more we can do. it's a constant challenge to make sure you're including and
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involving but that's the approach i like to take. >> i prooer that and i appreciate your efforts on that. thank you so much for your time. >> thank you, senator peters. senator danes? >> thank you. thank you minister neffenger. unfortunately you've not had a quiet nine months on the job, terrorist attacks in brussels and paris clearly highlight the vulnerabilities at home in transportation systems will remain a target and we must remain vigilant to thank you to you're doing to secure our nation. i know many ideas are being discussed to modify tsa's practices to extend perimeters, increase k-9 presence amongst other proposals. ultimately tsa needs to deploy resources in a fashion that will maximize our nation's security and also includes protecting rural access points to transportation networks and speaking someone from month month, talking about rural access points, the screening partnership program is an effective way for tsa to leverage its limited resources especially at some of our smaller airports.
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out of the 21 participating airports nationally, nine are actually in montana. as a voluntary program how does tsa handle airports that may want to opt pack to tsa screening? >> well you know they have that option if they like to, if an airport is currently under the screening partnership program with the private contractor and they wish to come back to federal screening from my perspective we have to work with them to ensure that that happens and we try to ensure a smooth handoff from contractor to tsa. >> i appreciate that commitment. i have an e-mail from the montana department of transportation at the butte airport they formally requested to go back to tsa screening and the response we got back from tsa that passenger screening would cease attribute and reverse screening would be conducted upon arrival at salt lake so i think they were questioning that how would eliminating screening at a commercial airport actually
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increase the safety of the national air space? >> let me look at that. and i apologize for not having that information in front of me. >> i think they're starting to get some verbal commitments now because they pushed back strong on that recommendation but i want to get your commitment to ensure whether they're tsa or spp we can always maintain the level of security at these rural airports. mr. neffenger, in 2013 the inspector general reported the nearly $900 million spent on screening of passengers by observation techniques, the spot program, was unsuccessful. i recognize this was before your time on the job, and again, i'm grateful that you're in this job and working to secure our nation as well as spend our dollars efficiently. last month the gao reported cost saving opportunities in the k-9 program, three days ago we read about tsa spending over $300,000 on a ran for rise ipad to tell passengers which lane to stand in, left or right. how is tsa reforming to be good
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stewards and gain the taxpayer's trust? >> those are good questions, and the exact questions i've been asking since i came on board. with respect to that randomized app, it was, that was that was part of a larger contract, so not all of that was spent on a randomizer. so a couple things we've done, one of the first things i did, was look at our acquisition program. i brought in an outside agency just to look top to bottom and tell me if they saw any gaps, so forth. my concern is best capability at lowest price and best value to the taxpayer. so that's one of the things we're doing. and we're working very hard on improving our oversight, our controls and the like. i'm looking across every contract we have to ensure the contract is appropriate, that the money is going to what we think it is, it's actually providing the capability we're asking for. i think that's very important.
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because it's about making sure that we take the limited resources we have and get some results for it. >> yeah, no, thanks for that very gran lar review. that's appreciated. as you know, our security is as strong as our weakest link. strength and security of the entire airspace. the bad guys are going to find our weak places to come in. i asked about the scanners that were to be installed in 2012 and montana aerpts are still without them. in response, you committed to evaluate plans to deploy the scanners. this is a specific question but again, we're as good as our weakest link. do you know what the status is in procuring this equipment? >> we don't have advanced imaging machines at all at small airports that i'd like to see them. from my perspective, i'd like to see them deployed 100% across the system.
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it's really a funding issue. the first thing i'd like to do is look at what the deployment schedule was for those. that includes upgrading to the current software technology on board and making sure that they meet our standards. so we put together a technology plan. it's a five-year plan for getting those on board. if i could accelerate that plan, depending upon how we can redeploy our resources part of the reason for doing the accusation study was to determine whether we had funding internally we could reallocate to a greater need such as ait machines. >> there's two specifically and they're too important communities in our state. they've been waiting for four years for the deployment of the technology. the second is great falls. highlight the importance of great falls. air force base is in great falls. that's where we control one-third of the nation's icbms.
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we make sure a lot of our security processes are hardened for obvious reasons. those would be two airports we wait for four years. our state's capital as well as great falls in the front door entrance to our icbm capabilities here for the country. i'd appreciate if you'd look at that and let us know how it looks. >> will do. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, senator. senator nelson i think has another question. we may have a couple members returning from the vote on the floor so senator nelson. >> mr. administrator, some real promise is being made by government scientists and they're working on a new detection system that mimics a dog's nose. dogs being so effective in this attempt that is the -- the bottom line for your agency, and
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so what do you see as the possle future of the use of such systems that mimic a dog's nose? >> well, i mean, if they can be effective, i think it would be wonderful. we're aware of that. we have some of our folks working to see what's the nature of its capability. i think what it shows us is we have to be thinking about the future of screening because you have to continually evolve the technology we have. i'm a big fan of that. i think we need to do that. and then wherever possible, piling it in limited controlled situations to determine whether it works in the real-world environment. i think there's some potential there. if it works, it could perhaps significantly augment our
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capability. >> do you know any of the data and the science behind this device? >> i know a little bit of it. not enough to not get myself in trouble if i try to speak about it publicly. i can promise you a deeper dive for the record on that. >> i asked the administrator as well. >> okay. all right, well, we don't have any. i think you're off the hook. admiral, thank you for your time, for your responsiveness. we will have some questions for the record we'll follow up with and ask that members who do want to submit questions for the records do that within the -- what's the time frame? two weeks. and that you be as responsive as you can to getting back. >> yes, sir.
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>> we look forward to continuing the discussion. these are issues that are of great importance to our country, our national security our homeland security, and you have an enormous responsibility, but we want to support you and make sure we get the job done right. with that, this hearing is adjourned.
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