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tv   TSA Outreach Public Engagement Efforts  CSPAN  March 1, 2018 9:02am-10:06am EST

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[ applause ] here's a look at some of our coverage thursday on the c-span networks. on c-span at 10:00 a.m. eastern the reverend billy graham's casket departs from the capitol. coverage of jerome powell before the senate banking committee. and at 1:00 eastern a white house summit on opioid addiction with the first lady and attorney general jeff sessions. on c-span 2 at fen 10:00 a.m., continued did he bait on a district court nomination. and on c-span 3 at 10:00 a.m., the trump administration's infrastructure plan. next, a hearing on tsa efforts with outreach to travelers with special needs. a house homeland security subcommittee heard from officials with the tsa and the national center for transgender equality. this is an hour.
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let's get going here. the committee on homeland security subcommittee on transportation and protection security will come to order. we're meeting today to examine the efforts effectively engage with the traveling public in a manner that's positive, respectful, and leads to the success of the agency's mission to security aviation system from threats. i now recognize myself for an opening statement. for most americans, tsa is the most visible component of the home department of homeland security and the only component which they regularly interact with. by screening over 2 million passengers ber day, tsa is reacting with a diverse array of individuals all of whom are worthy of the utmost respect,
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efficiency, and security. over the course of its history, tsa has had to at times swiftly implement new security measures to response to changing threats. other times they have saw the to gradually adjust operations to improve effectiveness and efficiency. in both cases, tsa has struggled to communicate clearly with the traveling public. lack of state engagement has led to confusion among travelers, airports, air carriers and even tsa's own frontline personnel. for example, in recent months, tsa began screening pass jerss property at the checkpoint. this new procedure called enhance accessible property screening was met with some confusion and frustration as travelers did not understand the reasoning behind the new procedures. the reality is that the success of tsa's mission rise and falls on the agency's ability to consistently apply proven security measures as krot system.
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this cannot be done without soliciting the public's feedback, identifying and respond together traveling public's needs and learning thousand effectively commune indicate with the traveling public. while tsa has struggled in terms of commune indicating security information, the agency has experienced a mesh you're of success in leveraging the power of social media 10 to game travelers. for example, tsa's own instagram account has nearly a million followers. i wish i had that. and has been heralded by media outlets across the country for its interesting and at times even comical content. this account helps raise public awareness on aviation security surrounding explosives, trace detection karks 9s, prohibited items, checkpoint processes and tsa precheck. tsa social media presence has been called one of the best in the federal government and plays an important role in communicating information to travelers. additionally, tsa's on ask tsa initiative has greatly improved the public's ability to quickly and easily ask items about what
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items they can or cannot bring in their carryon on checked baggage. tsa has made improvements through it's tsa cares program which allows pass zwrors call ahead and arrange for assistance at the checkpoint in order to minimize the confusion for passengers who may need extra help navigating checkpoint processes and proceeds yours. this goes a long way in transforming the passenger experience to one that's less stressful and yet more secure. it is incumbent on tsa to view the traveling public as a partner in security and leverage that partnership in a manner that's collaborative and positive. i look forward to hearing what tsa is doing to further make improvements in public engagement whielg protecting passengers's civil rights and liberties and respecting everyone with whom tsa personnel interact. while passenger's experiences should be positive, at the end of the day effective public engagement has a direct impact
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on security and tsa's ability to impact systems. we cannot stay ahead of threats without information. the key drivers of this must be mutual communication, cooperation, and respect. i thank the witnesses for agreeing to appear before the subcommittee today and i look forward to your today. i'm pleased to recognize the gentle lady from new jersey. >> i want to thank you for holding today's hearing and thank you for our witnesses for being here today to share your expertise with us. i have the special privilege of welcoming my niece, christine griggs who was called by the majority today to testify on behalf of the transportation security administration. today's topic is an important one. tsa is perhaps the most public-facing agency of the federal government interacting with over 2 million passengers daily and more than 440 airports
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across the nation. tsa has a no fail mission. as a single passenger allowed through with a weapon has the potential to cause great harm. at the same time, a single port interaction at a checkpoint at which a passenger is disrespected, abused or discriminate against has the potential to damage the tsa's representation through negative media attention. doing the right thing 2 million times every day without a single failure requires vigilance of a well-trained and dead kaldicate workforce. they do a tremendous job under extremely difficult circumstances and their leadership must continue to put them in a position to succeed. for the workforce to be able to do its job, tsa must develop procedures that are effective as both security and passenger facilitation standpoints. this is why tsa's public
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engagement efforts are so very critical. tsa has made significant progress in expanding those efforts in recent years. it has convened groups that represent a wise range of passenger populations and provide tsa with feedback on its programs and policies such as the disability and medical condition coalition and the multicultural coalition. many of the groups that engage with tsa such as the national center for transgender equality provide critical perspective that can inform training that tsa provides to its officers. tsa has also expanded its social media presence providing a mechanism for rab rapid response for passengers with complaints about the screening process. while i commend tsa for its efforts, i believe more can and must be done. too many passengers are still left feeling frustrate and singled out by tsa procedures. transgender passengers are subjected to an inordinate
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number of alarms from technology that is unable to screen them effectively. individuals with certain disabilities or medical conditions experience regular delays. and racial and religious minorities are left wondering whether their random selection for additional screening was truly random. as a national organization representing transgender americans, put it it in a march 2017 letter to tsa engagement that slimted to educating the public and addressing the personnel side of the screening experience fails to address the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties issues inherent in current screening technology. my main question for tsa today is whether it can move beyond its current engagement efforts to better incorporate feedback from the public into it's process for developing new procedures for transgernts and technologies. i recognize the severity of the
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threat that they faces. continuing to improve tsa's screening operations to better account for passenger needs while facing an evolving threat landscape will not be easy, but the american public deserves nothing less. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about the challenges their s-- they face,i look forward to hearing their testimony and i yield back my time. >> thank you. other members of the subcommittee are reminded other opening statements can be submitted for the record. let me remind the wits that your entire written statement will appear in the record so there's no need to reread the whole thing if you don't want to. our first witness ms. christine griggs serves as acting assistant administrator for civil rights and liberties, travel engagement at the
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transportation security administration. and how do you fit that title on one business card? her office is responsible for ensuring that tsa employees n the traveling public are treated in a fair and consistent manner. mission critical duties include affording redress, governing freedom of information prohibiting discrimination and reprisal while promote moting diversity and i collusion. ms. griggs began work with tsa in 2002. we now recognize ms. griggs for her opening statement. >> good morning, chairman katko, ranking member watson coleman and distinguishes members of the subcommittee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the approach to public engagement. as the acting assistant administrator of of the office of civil rights and liberties, i'm responsible for overseeing the office charge with engaging a number of groups as well as the general public to ensure
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that various passenger constituent sies are well represented. this includes the travel division which implements traveler redress inquiry program. the tsa contact center, he and the disability multicultural and service branches as well as the aud budman branchs. so the public for issues, concerns, and conflicts involving tsa policies and procedures. integral to tsa's success in carrying out our critical airport security screening function sour ability to communicate with and understand our audiences. tsa seine gauged in a multifaceted approach to improve our ability to communicate with the public through a variety of forums. including one on one engagement with our tsos, public forums, social media, and the internet. in fiscal year 2017, the tsa contact center responded to more
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than 601,000 inquiries by phone or e-mails. the tcc answers questions about the checkpoint experience, addresses complaints or concerns, and serves as the intake point for travelers who need information about tsa precheck, dhs traveler redress or their civil rights and civil liberties among other topics. reflective of the progress tsa smak this effort, in fiscal year 2017, the tcc kparnsd 14% decrease in the rate of complaints despite -- in tsa's earliest days we reached out to consumers to help us understand the traveling public's needs and concerns. these coalitions represent a wide spectrum of travelers including muslims, native
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americans, persons with os tamy, mother's traveling with breast mill be, transgender individuals, people who use wheelchairs and others. one example from such engagement is the work in the seek community which resulted in a change in the screening procedures by taking in consideration the religious sensitivities of this community, tsa now allows sikh passengers to pat down their own religious head wear and pat down their hands for additional screening. another work is civil rights equities in the next broad agency announcement to industry to acquire improved people, process, and technology screening solutions. in late 60, my team met with innovation task force to discuss this broad agency announcement. this coincided with our work, with the transgender community, and their ongoing dhaerns tsa's technology systems are binary and can be problematic for
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transgender travelers at the security check point. as a result, the broad agency announcement tsa issued in early 2017 to solicit technology ideas from industry now includes civil rights equities which should promote improvements to screening of persons with disability, screening of head wear and transgender passengers. another way we engage with the public is through tsa cares which was established in 2011 and provides a toll free hotline that enables travelers to ask questions about screening policies, procedures, and what to expect at the security checkpoint. tsa saw an 11% call volume increase in 2017 for tsa cares assistance. last year we also began a tsa cares video series to help better inform travelers of what to expect during the screening process. our other key link to the public is through our social media presence which has continued to gro. our social media efforts aimed to showcase tsa's screening efforts, k-9s, packing tips and initiatives that help to increase awareness. our instagram account which
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highlights the prohibited items has more than 840,000 followers. we have also continued our commitment to customer service by helping passengers in realtime 365 days a year through at tsa which is our social care team that monthters twitter and facebook. to date we've received more than 450,000 questions from the traveling public. in close, with the every increasing screening actions we have every day, we recognize our ability to communicate epeblingttively with all of our stakeholders is crucial. thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today, i look forward to your questions. >> thank you very much, ms. griggs and i appreciate you being here today and your testimony. the next witness is ms. stacey fitzmaurice. ms. fitzmaurice currently serves as a deputy assistant administrator for the office of security operations at tsa and is responsible for overseeing risk-based adaptive security
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measures at airports nationwide. she previously serveds a deputy assistant administrator for tsa office of intelligence and analysis and has also contributed to the u.s. customs and border protection. as acting director of new targeting programs within the national target willing center. smees a graduate of dhs senior executive service, candidate development program, as well as lee line university. we now recognize ms. fits mauer reed reece for her opening statement. >> good morning, chairman katko, ranking member watson-coleman and the subcommittee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss how the administration engages the traveling public in. in our various efforts to keep them informed on pros e proceed use. as the desperate to office of security of operation, i'm responsible for helping oversee the domestic operational arm of tsa which secures the nation's transportation infrastructure and screens all commercial
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airline passengers, baggage, and cargo. oso represents the frontline of physical security screening operations with our transportation security officers serving as our primary interface with the public. on an average day in 2017, our officers are in contact with about 2.4 million travelers at more than 440 federalized arpts airports nationwide. with the workforce spread from maine to the islands, screening such a large volume of travelers and securing our function while meeting the very needs of the traveling public can be a challenge, it is our duty to keep travelers safe and secure. and it is also our duty to treat every traveler with dignity and respect. despite these challenges, we remain focussed on ensuring our tsos are aware of the diverse need of travelers. sensitive to cultural
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differences, and able to carry out screening requirements. to train tsos in these screening processes, tsa established the tsa academy in early 2016. tsa new-hire training is now conducted at the federal law enforcement training center down in glenco, georgia, a move that centralizes training for new employees which was previously held at u.s. airports. while there, tsa student officers train at replica check points involving real world scenarios such as social engineering tactics, screening individuals with disabilities, and how to effectively implement a long resolution procedure. this training allows the tsas to develop a better understanding of a diverse array of passenger needs. tsos also play a critically important role in ensuring travelers are educated about and prepared for the screening
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process. last summer, as part of a continued effort to raise the baseline of aviation security, tsa implemented new security measures for carryon baggage that required travelers to play all personal electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for extra screening and standard lanes. and implementing those procedural changes, tsos des ig say theed as divest ture officers provide a vit cal face-to-face element and communicate the requirements to travelers at the checkpoint, answer questions from the travelers, and prepare them for the subsequent screening process. complimenting and supplementing such efforts, tsa utilized traditional media, social media, and industry partners to inform the public about the changes to better prepare travelers for the checkpoint security process. we will also able to field questions in realtime through ask tsa receiving instant
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feedback from passengers and providing quick resolution to concerns resulting from the changes in security. in close, today's threat environment is more dynamic, more profound and more complex than ever before as threats evolve, we must adapt to our adversaries which necessitates changes to policies and procedures at the checkpoint. as these processes change and adapt, we must ensure that we effectively communicate to the public so that travelers know what to expect which supports for an efficient screening experience. additionally, we remain committed to receiving feedback from travelers and where possible adjusting our processes to better meet individual needs while still achieving our security objectives. thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, ms. fitzmaurice. we appreciate you being here today. our third witness is harper jean
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tobin. ps tobin serves at dribt tosh of policy for transgender equality. she leads ncte's add video case i can with congress and also direct's policy work. prior to her work with the ncte, ms. tobin worked with the federal rights project of the national senior citizens law center. ms. tobin holds law and social work degrees from case western reserve university. the chair now recognizes ms. tobin for her opening statement. >> thank you, chairman katko, ranking member watson-coleman r distinguished members of the subcommittee thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. ncte has been engaging with tsa for nearly a decade now. my whole time on staff. and we see the challenges facing transgender travelers as part of a wider spectrum of concerns that affect the traveling public. including particular concerns for travelers with disabilities, racial and religious minorities and survivors of sexual trauma.
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as long as tsa relies on body scanner units and intimate patdowns as primary passenger screening tools, we believe there will be a cost to traveler's privacy, dignity and liberty and questions about whether that skoft paying off in real security benefits. that cost is born by all travelers, but it tends to be greater for anyone who's perceived as being different. in 2015, ncte conducted a sur vaf ov -- survey of nearly 58,000 transgender. of those who flown in the last year at least one reported one negative experience related to being transgender. these included being misgendered or harassed, being loudly questioned about their gender or body parts sometimes in front of young family members, and being asked to remove or lift clothing to show an undergarment or
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sensitive area of the body. some reported leaving the check point in tears while others fear that being you the outed to other travelers in the skreek process could make them a target for violence. some parents have told us they're afraid to fly with their transgender children because of the embarrassment they could face. today's ait can't distinguish between human body parts and a potential object and instead relies on in part the typical body contours of men and women. this leads to inspection of sensitive parts of the body or undergarments. many travelers tell they they repeatedly have patdowns in the chest area or groin. i have to say i personally have experienced this many times as have many members of ncte staff and board and our colleagues and friends. one of ncte former board members
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who's also a senior citizen wrote to me just last month that she was pulled out of line at bwy because of what she was told as an anomaly in the groin area and was patted down or as she put it in her own words groped by no less than three officers. another colleague and friend of mine published and op-ed in 2013 about traveling to washington, d.c. for ann attorney ship. he said his excitement was quickly squelched when he was told, sir, we need to know what's in your pants. we understand tsa's important security mission. it's important also to understand that travelers don't want to have conversations like this when they are trying to get on a plane. that was a -- that was a conversation, as you can imagine, that was very uncomfortable for my colleague. frankly, even more uncomfortable than my sitting here talking about it before a congressional subcommittee. because we have here a
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government agency that has made it its business to know what's in american's pants. and there has got to be a way to keep americans safe without innocent travelers being asked questions about frankly their genitals or having them touched by uniformed strangers every time they try to get on a plane. now, over the years, tsa, as i said, has worked with -- ncte has are worked with t sanction a great deal. we have briefed them, we've held stakeholder calls and conferences, we had input on training and web content. and in 2014 i even received a community partner award from then administrator pass tolly. at the same time, we've also seen the real limits of this engagement. tsa as the chairman noted, has more contact, i would add quiter
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rally, contact with the public than just about any other agency. the staff of crlote really want and try, in my experience, to improve the passenger experience. and they have done so much, as you've just heard, to engage the public on that. but in my view, they are hamstrung in that mission by the flaws of the current screening model. their materials while they work very hard on them and have produced, you know, videos for specific groups of travelers, different web pages for specific groups of travelers, the materials are often unable to answer basic questions because of secrecy or unpredictability and they're often unable to respond to complaints by individuals because the things being complained of are baked into the system. so they try, but public outreach has to inform policy procedures and technology. we understand tsa is in the process of demonstrating
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upgrades to ait. when it comes to innovation, we certainly hope this will lead to improvements, but we urge the agency to think about more than making tweaks. is continuing to invest in ait units as primary tools really the right move for the public? can it make more use of less invasive tools? how account agency truly minimize false alarms and minimize it's touch rate? and how can reaching out and hearing travelers's questions and concerns inform tsa's approach on the front end, not the back end? i have great respect for the folks at crlote and the individual tsos who are working hard and don't relish the intrusive nais nature of some of their work. i hope today's hearing can help ensure that tsa's public engagement leads to real improvements in the passenger experience. thanks. >> thank you, ms. tobin. we appreciate you being here today and your testimony. i noe now recognize myself for five minutes of questions and
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the first question i want to talk about is the social media aspect of tsa. i think it's a very innovative thing you're doing and you're doing a great job with it. the question i have is, how many passenger engagements curvy ya social media versus traditional means of inquiry such as an e-mail or phone call? does anyone have any estimate of that? it seems like there's a lot more interest a social media standpoint. ms. griggs. >> yes, sir. chairman, i would say that with 847,000 followers on instagram, we have a fantastic engagement with the traveling public through that means. through our contact center which sour primary portal of passengers coming in with questions were we get about 70% or so that come in through the phone calls and another 30 come in with e-mail questions. by and large i would say the internet is the greatest tool, sir. >> one of the things i'm curious about is the program itself has
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only about ten employees right now, is that right? >> i believe it's close to ten, sir. >> so that seems like an awful lot of -- awful lot of inquiries to handle for such a small amount. has there been any discussion had at tsa about shifting some resources to this emothering positive thing that tsa is doing? >> sure. i think there's been some discussion around some of the work that we do in the tsa contact center and how that could also be supportive of the @tsa initiatives and we're looking at possibly gaining some efficiency there's as well. >> i would ask that you take a look at that and within the next ten days if someone could respond back to me, just letting us know what the specific plans are and what you might be doing in that regard. because this seems like a good program and i don't want to fall into a bureaucratic more ras where people don't pay attention and it suffers. it's a good program and i hope you guys will give. amount of staffing in deserves. i want to switch gears and talk
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to ms. fitzmaurice for a second if i may. the tsa precheck program is an innovative necessity for risk-based security at airports. i know the goal was in a short period of time to have up to 20 million passengers in the tsa precheck because it would allow to you focus on those that are more concerned and can spend more time with them in the nonprecheck environment. i know we're nowhere near that. i'm still concerned and if we have time later maybe we'll talk about this, why we're not where we should be with those numbers, or nowhere close yet. but, one thing i have seen from the inspector general's report from december of 2017 was that the precheck boom, if you will, that kind of went from 1 million up to 4 million or 5 million, wherever it is now, was followed by a substantial period of delay in processing precheck applications. i wonder if you could talk to me
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about that real quick and tell me what you're doing to try to address that problem. >> yes, sir. thank you for your question. our goal is to continue to grow the program as well as the number of travelers that are receiving the precheck based on their enrollment every day. the program did have a very significant spike in enrollments and what i can share with you is that today we're in a very good place as it relates to the time frame it takes. it's on average less than a week, if you enroll to get your response for being in precheck. so i think the issues that we had in the past have been resolved. additionally that office has been able to supplement bringing on new personnel to help with the adjudication of applications. >> is there something in place to deal with potential future spikes so we don't have this happen again? >> yes. so my understanding is that they have, through the additional resource, been able to plan for additional spikes. they've also put in to place
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relationships and engagements to be able to surge if needed. >> very good. now, sticking with precheck, i do an awful lot of traveling and i'm in precheck and it seems more and more lately that people you hear in lines, the grumblings that people don't think precheck is worth it. ways at an airport this weekend in miami and i think there was probably five to seven times more people in the precheck lane than in the nonprecheck lane. and so i want to address that as well because it seemed like people are going through the nonprecheck lane quicker than they were the precheck lane number one. but number two, more importantly we made it a big priority to get tsa to stop manage inclusion. and manage inclusion staking people out of regular lanes and putting them into precheck when they zrient precheck background. it still seems to be the case that that happens at times and to varying degrees and that not only is a security risk which is probably something we need to talk about in another setting, i
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mean another hearing, but it is something that people from a product standpoint think is not right. and i'm being one of them. but an awful lot of people. so from an image standpoint as well as a safety standpoint it's not good. and we have been banging tsa over the head since i've been in congress last three years to not do this. they still do it. i wonder if you can explain why they're doing it and why -- why you think the public isn't going to get upset about it or why do you care? >> yes, thank you, chairman. so we have ended the manage inclusion program as you mentioned and we also, you know, are -- >> i don't mean it interrupt you but are you calling it something different so we have to follow that too? >> no, we're not doing that. we have taken steps to reduce the number of individuals who would be getting prechecked that are not enrolled, and that has been subsequent or a continued draw down over really the last year.
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when the program first rolled out, one the populations that we originally targeted were high frequent flyers. and i can tell you that that practice ended last year, so those individuals are no longer receiving precheck just based on their frequent flyer status. relative to your question on long lines, and i realize sometimes it can be the open ticks of that. what i can share with you is that across the system, people who are in precheck are waiting on average about a minute and a half to two minutes. and over about 94% of the system for precheck travelers are waiting under five minutes. so while there may be people in those lines, those lines are moving quickly. >> okay. and lastly, and i'm indulge willing myself because i'll give my colleagues the same courtesy. i was in an airport in ft. myers and they had no -- they had nothing but precheck line. and in the precheck line they had one dog and people were going back -- going by the dog
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at a very fast pace and getting into line and the line was backed up. they did it as a way of reduce congestion. and while it's important that we have the dog sniff on every single individual, they are still not in precheck. they still don't have the background on these individuals. they still don't have the selectee information, if there is any. they still could be letting people through that line that may be other wise shouldn't be going through that line. and the whole idea behind precheck is to know your traveller. you don't know the travelers, you're just hoping that the dog catches a whiff of something in there's a concern. so that coupled with your comment that you're taking steps to reduce nonprecheck people going through precheck lanes is not what we want to hear. what we want to hear is that people who are not in precheck are not going through a precheck lane period, that was the whole idea behind ending manage inclusion. so i feel like in a way it's i bit of a shell game going on and we're going to have more hearings -- i think we'll have to have another hearing on precheck alone to examine this
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in more depth but i want to lit know to take back to the agency that we are still very concerned about this and it seems like perhaps tsa is not getting the message that precheck means precheck and nonprecheck means nonprechecked and that's it. and it shouldn't be used as a way to manage traffic. that's another issue and we can help with you that too. but precheck is precheck, okay. and we want you guys to understand that. and it's something we're going to have to pursue further. i now recognize my colleague from nng, ms. watson coleman. >> thank you, chairman. i want to associate myself with concerns with precheck the individuals who have been taken through the line who haven't engaged in the whole vetting process for precheck. i guess i want to ask this question first of ms. tobin. thank you all for being here. ms. tobin, i'm troubled by some of the discussion that you've had about the passengers that are transgender passengers in particular that experience when
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they're going through screening. i get the impression that you believe that there have been so improvement in the way tsa is dealing with these issues as a result of having collaborations and feedback from you and your organization. do you agree? >> well, ms. ranking member, we certainly have seen some improvements on the human element of those interactions. we still pretty regularly hear of challenges, some of the things, you know, i mentioned in my written testimony are things that i think fellow witnesses would agree shouldn't be happening and those things still do happen. we have really seen improvements. we think that there's probably more that we could do if we had the chance to collaborate with their training academy, for example. but i think the major concern that we have is that there are some things that can't be
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addressed through the human element that are sort of baked into the current screening model that there is no amount of professionalism on the part of tsos which most of the time we do see, that can make up for the fact that some passengers are having repeated alarms in sensitive areas of the body that have to be cleared in a process that's sort of inherently intrusive. >> so i kind of really want to stick with this issue a little bit. i am thinking that the centralized training that takes place in georgia now kind of provides these officers who are going to be on the front lines a bit more information and a bit more tools on how to deal with this. and so i want to get to that in a second, but i want to ask about this ait that is gender neutral, because i believe that that's one of the things that your organization says is
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vitally important at these check points and that will reduce the degree to which individuals are treated in a way that intrudes upon their civil liberties and their privacy. and i'm wondering, are we really talking about aits that are gender neutral and, if so, do you have any idea how far away we are from having them actually at these check points? i guess ms. fitzmaurice or misms. griggs, i don't know which one of you wants to respond to that. >> thank you, ranking member. i would say right now as a result of the broad agency announcement we've had several submissions and through those we are currently demonstrating an on person screening solution that would eliminate any gender specific alarms and be able to make that distinction, if you will. and we're work with end e vendors who have solutions for on-person screening that's gender agnostic. i could say right now we're in the demonstration phase of it
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and certainly continue to work forward to bring that as quickly as we can. >> so aurl the vendors that you're dealing with understand that you're looking for gender neutral technology. do you have any idea how far away we are from seeing some of this employed in the airports? >> i do not at this time. >> that's something i really would like to know because i think that's a really important issue and consideration that we need to look at in sort of an expedited way. mrs. fitzmaurice, you said the new hierres are trained in the georgia facility. what do you do with the current hires that haven't had the benefit of this new training academy to bring them up to snuff so they are operating under the standards and rules and regulations and procedures
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and policies and, you know, protocols? >> thank you. so all of our officers, whether they were trained locally at their airport and have been part of the tsa workforce for a number of years or newer officers that have gone through the academy have received the same training. and so if we have, you know, new procedures or changed procedures, we'll obviously implement that for the training that's occurring at the academy for our new officers. and then what we'll also do is some field-based training for our existing officers. as i mentioned in my oral statement, we have a lot of different scenarios that we train our officers on down at the academy for a variety of types of situations that they may experience and how to best to handle those situations, the best advisements to give passengers. that's one of the critical things we find is having that engagement and strong advisements with the passengers
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so that they know what to expect is critical for us to be successful in executing those. >> thank you. i have a number of other questions i don't know if you want to go a second round. >> we can do a second round, that's no problem. >> i yield back. >> the chair now recognize the gentleman from louisiana, mr. higgins for five minutes of questioning. >> thank you, chairman, members of the pan pell. thank you for appearing today. i've recently become a frequent flyer through nay congressional service and as a police office fore many, many years prior to my kurntd service to my country i certainly recognize the struggles and frustrations of frontline officers and first responders. i've really come to know personally the men and women that serve as tsos, especially in my local airport in louisiana. so i've come to recognize the human element that they deal with, long lines, staff
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shortages, equipment that doesn't seem to be working well. travelers that don't know how to arrange their bags on the screening devices, and i've seen the frustration that they face. so i'm wondering, how is morale? you can give me a general answer? how is morale amongst your tsos? >> thank you for your he question. i would say that overall, our tsos have a great sense of pride in what it is that they do. >> no doubt. >> for tsa. and i think that that shows day in and day out in the work that they do to accommodate all of our passengers and to treat everybody fairly with dignity and respect. i would certainly say that those struggles do lend themselves often times to having officers who get frustrated. but having spent over 12 years
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or so in airports and in the field kr field, i can tell you that our leadership cadre has stepped up to the plate and been there in terms of engaging our officers to say if you have an issue or concern, let's resolve it here at the lowest possible level and let's work with our employee advisory grooems grou advisory groups and hear what the concerns are and give the officers a voice to say this is why i'm unhappy and this is what's happening. i think that's bode very well because they feel they have a voice and our leadership has been supportive of that. >> that led to my next question. thank you for that encouraging answer. do your tsos -- is there a mechanism where tsa can hear from the boots on the ground of common sense answers to everyday problems in the lines that would make the lines more efficient and effective and reflective of the very crucial security
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screening that must take place while at the same time recognizing the needs of travelers and the needs of individual americans like ms. tobin is representing today who certainly have rights that need to be addressed? do you have a mechanism for your tsos to regularly communicate with supervisors to address boots on the ground solution to the challenges that they face? >> so i would -- i think i would defer that to my colleague ms. fitzmaurice. >> ms. fitzmaurice. >> thank you. so i think we have a variety of ways our officers can communicate. one is directly with their supervisors in routine engagements on performance and how the operation is going. also our federal security directors in the management staff at the airports are having routine town halls where they can solicit input. i personally have visited a number of airports and have received input from our officers on things that we take back.
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but we also have some systematic ways with an idea factory where officers can put in. >> they communicate online and submit like anonymous suggestions? >> they can. it's not anonymous, but they can submit suggestions. and those are kind of crowd sourced in terms of getting feedback on them. >> that's encouraging. i'd like to jump to your academy. is there annual recertification training for your tsos that have been through certification training and, if so, do the existing officers that were originally trained at airports across the country, do you send them to the academy in georgia? >> sir, we have a requirement for annual proficiency reviews for all of our officers to demonstrate that they remain proficient on all of our procedures. and, you know, for officers who have been on board and perhaps had not gone to the academy initially, we're not sending them back for the basic
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training. there are opportunities for some of the advanced training for them to go to the academy for other reasons. >> but training changes and it's an ongoing process. there is some method for recertification of your current tsos? >> yes, sir. depending opt nature of the changes that may be implemented, we would look at different ways to deliver that training. it could be through online training, it could be through inperson training there at the airport. >> and quickly, ms. griggs, is tsa looking to expand the roles of precheck? is that a general gall for tsa to expand precheck? >> i think i would defer to ms. fitzmaurice on that question? >> is that a general goal? >> i think we absolutely want to grow the number of travelers in the -- >> that would be a yes. do you offer group rates? >> we currently do not offer group rates. >> it might be something to
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consider because the problem that ms. tobin's constituency is encountering is due to advanced imagery technologies. and if it occurs to me it could be be a win for everybody. you could grow the roles of tsa by offering group rates across the country and members of ms. tobin's organization could sign up for pre-check, go through the background clearance, and they wouldn't have to go through ait or a metal detector through pre-check. that would essentially solve that problem. with that, mr. chairman, i thank you for allowing me to go a little bit over my time. i yield back. >> well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, i do it all the time. and i have to indulge anymy colleagues. ms. fitzmorris, since you are kind of the tip of the spear with respect to risk-based programs at tsa, i want to go on a little bit further with you
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about the precheck. this initially preceded your time in the position but it is something that's troubling. we take a step back, pre-check, the idea of pre-check is people sign up, we do background checks, do more in depth analysis of them and make a determination that if you're eligible for the pre-check program, at least in its current form, not in its original form, there's vetting that goes on. there's recurring vetting that goes on and you have an idea whether or not the individual could be a problem. and when you take them out of the other lanes and put them into this lane from a risk-based issue, it's not good. and from a public relations issue, it's terrible. so, you want to grow this program. and you want to grow this program, i don't know what you're anticipating with the airports, number one, as far as the physical layout of the pre-check lanes versus a non-pre-check lanes, number one. and number two, and far more
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importantly, how can you justify taking people out of regular lanes and putting them in pre-check when you don't have the background of them? >> yes, sir, mr. chairman. so, we are, as i said, trying to grow the number of pre-check and draw down the individuals who are going through just pre-check that have not enrolled. that said, we also have, you know, additional screening, measures that we can apply for use of canines as an example and we believe that's one of the more effective screening methods and so as we look at how to maximize the number of individuals who are screened by a canine, we've been able to redesign some of the queues to do that. just i guess last week i was traveling out of washington dulles, had the opportunity to go through that. i am an enrolled pre-check member and i found my experience to be just as efficient as it typically would be going through a dedicated pre-check lane. >> but efficiency is one thing. but security's another.
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and they're not always mutually beneficial to each other. so i understand moving people is a priority. and i understand you have to have a constant balance between service and security, but what got you into a lot of the tso problems in the past as far as extraordinarily poor rating on the undercover operations testing the security vulnerabilities at the checkpoints, there's a lot of pressure on tsos to move people through, and it seems like that is just heightened with pre-check. pre-check was supposed to alleviate lines by getting people in there that should be but we found with managed inclusion, they were usurping that and now we're finding that it's, again, i'm not hearing from you that there's a goal to make sure that only pre-check people go through pre-check. and so, at a risk of sounding redundant, i want to make sure i underscore the point that that is not the goal of the
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committee. the goal of the committee is to have only people in pre-check going through pre-check, and it seems like you're trying to find ways to nip around the edge of that and denigrate the amount of ri risk-based security you're going. yes, having a dog go through is great but let's not forget with the emerging technologies from the bad guys, they're not always going to find everything that we're looking for, so we better know with a better sense of precision who the people are that are going through pre-check and we can only do that if they're in pre-check. so going forward, i think we're going to need to have a discussion about what to do with this issue, because it's not going to stand for us in the committee here. we are -- we simply are not going to tolerate it, and it's for years now down the road and a lot of people going through pre-check still aren't involved in pre-check and that's not good. and you cannot justify it to me otherwise. and with that, i yield to my colleague. >> thank you. first of all, mr. chairman, i
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want to request to enter into the record the testimony from the national disability rights guide, the guide dog foundation, and the electronic privacy information center. >> without objection, so ordered. >> thank you very much. this is to tsa. there's a concern about individuals who have experienced sexual trauma or some other impediment to being able to be touched, to be patted down. how do you deal with that? how do you know? >> so, we have a lot of information that we put out on our website as well as with our tsa cares program where individuals can reach out and let us know in advance. we have officers that are trained to support these passengers who may have some sort of need or assistance, and so our officers are trained to do that. you know, i recognize that there are times where we do need to
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touch individuals for our security mission, and so really what we have been focused on is being as transparent as possible with the information that we put out there as well as i mentioned earlier the advisements that we give, so it's really important for us to advise passengers, not only in advance but also while we're engaging with them and providing a situation so that they're comfortable. that's if they want to have this screening done in a private screening room, we can do that as well. >> okay. so, my concern should not be a concern that someone who, you know, claims to not be touchable because of the trauma that he or she has experienced, something happens to make sure that that's legitimate and we're not just dealing with someone using that as an excuse. >> well, we wouldn't question that type of information from an individual, but if they do express that they have some concern, i think we will definitely work with them to
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accommodate and understand what their concerns are. no one is exempt from the screening requirement, and so -- but really, the it's about how we work with them to accommodate them. >> so i know the tsa has equal employment opportunity programs and affirmative action programs or programs of that nature. i'm wondering if you have any specific program that addresses the employment of transgenders and whether or not you are employing transgenders as tsos and to that extent, after you answer that question, i'd like to know, have you ever encountered any and have they expressed concerns about upward mobility opportunities? so i will leave it either to ms. griggs or ms. fitzmaurice first. >> yeah, so we -- to the extent that our transgender employees have informed us that they are
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transgender, yes, we do have transgender employees on our workforce. and to your -- if you could just repeat your second question, ma'am. >> how do you deal with whether or not there are any tsos. >> yes, ma'am. >> and if there have been sort of any impediments to their upward mobility? we've heard from females there may be some impediment to upward mobility at the agency but then i see the two of you here representing the agency. but anyway -- >> i would say that as it stands right now, we are working on a written policy as relates to our transgender employees and trying to find the right balance between, obviously, civil rights and liberties of the employees as well as for the traveling public. the other thing i would add is that each situation, we take it individually and i think that the airports and the field operations, by and large, have been working very closely with any transgender employees through any transition and working with them to ensure that they're comfortable, that the
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workforce is comfortable, you know, in order to ensure a smoother transition. >> thank you. ms. tobin. >> we have heard in the past, we've seen cases and in fact tsa has had to settle eeo complaints of transgender tsos who have faced harassment or work restrictions or other forms of discrimination. sometimes as a matter of either management decisions at the airport or elsewhere. that's not something that we have heard in the last few years. >> good. >> and we certainly look forward to the agency clarifying its eeo policy. it lags behind much of the rest of the government in that respect, and we certainly see transgender officers in law enforcement and security positions. >> just a few moments left in this hearing on the tsa. you can see the rest of it online at check the c-span video library, type tsa hearing in the search
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bar. we are going live now to capitol hill this morning to hear from transportation secretary elaine chao. she'll be answering questions shortly before the senate environment and public works committee on the administration's infrastructure plan. it's about $200 billion over 10 years and the "washington post" is reporting today the plan includes billions of dollars for rural infrastructure and curtailing environmental reviews to speed up projects. the committee is expected to ask how the program will be funded and implemented. secretary chao is in the room. we do expect it to start here in just a moment. live coverage on c-span3.
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