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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  April 10, 2016 5:51am-7:01am EDT

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the threat to transportation is very real and that our work to ensure freedom and protect our nation is never done. while challenges remain i can confidently and without reservation tell you that we at t.s.a. are on the job and intensely focused on protecting the public. i will end with a note about the summer travel. the good news is a strong economy means more people than ever are traveling. this economic health, however, places tremendous pressure on our transportation systems. in our communications with this committee we've identified immediate steps to hire, train, and field additional front line work force and collaborate with airlines and airports to address the high volume of travel this summer. two key points. traveler security comes first and we cannot compromise on protecting travelers. second, the expected volume means there will be longer waits during peak periods and travelers need to be prepared. we will continue to identify ways to immediately improve efficiency without compromising security. thank you again for your continued support and advocacy for
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t.s.a. and for the men and women on t.s.a.'s front lines and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, administrator neffenger. as you mentioned, and of course you were there, the brussels attack was directed at aviation infrastructure but it wasn't just an attack on that. it was also the metro car as we mentioned between stations which killed 13 people and injured a lot more. rail and transit are very open systems, much like the nonsterile areas of airports and could easily be perceived as soft targets. what have you, or i should say how have you communicated with surface transportation operators about the potential for a brussels like attack on a u.s. transportation system and do you believe that transit systems and passenger railroads in particular are prepared for an attack like the tragic events in brussels? >> mr. chairman, thank you for
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that question. that is a question that's been op everyone's mind, certainly since the brussels attacks. i will tell it you's been our minds for a long time and is one of the fundamental questions that we've asked ourselves across the surface transportation world for quite a number of years. i will tell you that it starts really with good intelligence and as you from the briefing that we gave this committee earlier this month there is an extensive network of intelligence professionals focused on the transportation threats on all modes of transportation so it really begins with the assessment of what we think the current threats are, who the potential groups are that would deliver those threats, and, more importantly, who the individuals are that might be moving through the system that might provide a particular threat. the next step of course is to identify the vulnerability across the system. we work very closely with our partners across the systems. i spent quite a bit of time over the nine months i've been onboard meeting with transit
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police chiefs, transit professionals, transit authority directors, to look at the types of systems that we have in place and i have been very encouraged by what i've seen. there is an extensive network of security professionals arrayed across this system that really leverage the investment we can make from t.s.a. to establish a very high level security standard across the system, awareness of what's going on -- there is a great deal of shared intelligence and a lot of sharing of best practices and we help facilitate many of the groups and teams that get together to do that. while any open system is by definition at risk, i think that there is a great deal being done to ensure that we reduce that risk and we understand ho you that risk might present itself. >> just as a follow up to that, less than 2% of the president's budget was a request for t.s.a. was directed to the security of surface transportation. i know we all understand the
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threats to aviation sector are very real but as a followup do you believe in terms of resource allocation that the t.s.a. is doing enough to ensure the security of passengers on our railroads and transit systems? >> i think that we've been able to as i said leverage thousands of professionals across the country and you have some superb local and state law enforcement entities that are doing work in that sector, whether the amtrak police, the new york city transit police, the new jersey transit police, and so forth. there are more than i can mention. the -- so we've done that. i think if you're asking an operator if he would put more resources to use, yes, i would. and what i would do is put them to use in support of those entities that are doing really good efforts out there. we coordinate with them. we integrate our teams with their teams. we work to increase our ability to understand what might be
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happening out there, understanding 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 visible intermodal prevention and response or vipr teams nationwide from 30 to 60. by contrast the president's fiscal year 2016 budget request called for the elimination of two vipr teams and 23 related positions. in your written testimony you note that t.s.a.'s vipr program, which operates in both aviation and surface transportation venues has updated its concept of operationtors 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?
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hon. neffenger: well, i appreciate the attention that congress is giving to t.s.a. resources and i will tell you this, mr. chairman. if i were to receive more vipr teams i would be able to put them to use across the transportation system. i would deploy them more effectively with our partners in the surface world and deploy them to more public areas of our aviation environment. >> just one last question here. in the past year and a half we have seen repeated abuses of airport badges that grant access to areas of the airport. these are used by airport and airline workers to bypass t.s.a. screening check points and in this case facilitate criminal activities like gun and drug smuggling. these incidents have raised a lot of questions about whether our airports are vulnerable to an insider threat. and as i mentioned earlier in response along with our committee members senator nelson, cantwell, johnson, and klobuchar have introduced the act to help counter some of the aviation insider threats by improving the vetting, credentialing, and
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inspections 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 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've had some of those same concerns with respect to the attacks overseas. so i'm very pleased and happy that congress has given us the support that they have. i think you're right to focus on that. the additional access -- this committee in particular was very supportive of our access to additional categories. that's made a huge difference in terms of recurrent vetting. i'd like to see us fully implement the f.b.i. program before the end of this fiscal year so we can do continuous recurrent criminal vetting and i think anything we can do to tighten
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the oversight of the insider population to verify their trusted status i think is worth doing. >> thank you. senator nelson? 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 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
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country and, lo and behold, only two up to that point, only two, had done a perimeter security where they had reduced to a 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 as checking in one of the machines the stuff that they brought in. things that were not done in atlanta that allowed over a hundred 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
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through security. atlanta has now complied, so that's atlanta, miami, orlando. what about the rest of the 297 airports nationwide? >> senator, i had the exact same question. it was a wakeup call for atlanta and as you've noted they've put measures in place, both the private sector -- >> what about the other 297? >> so earlier this year i noted a detailed vulnerability assessment across the entire system for those other airports that you mentioned. that assessment, the results of that assessment are coming in this month. the purpose of that assessment was to answer that very specific question. first and foremost, what have you done? what is the nature of your insider population? >> that is the question. what is the answer? >> the answer is that there has been a lot of movement in terms of reducing security access points across the system. there's been a lot of movement
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to greatly enhance the oversight of that insider population both by t.s.a. as well as by the employers. >> a lot of movement. such as? >> what i'm going to have to provide to you in the report is once we evaluate all of these that are in that's going to drive us to add requirements into the aviation security, airport security plans for each of those airports to take the best practices we're finding from miami, from orlando, from atlanta, and drive those into the other airports across the country. 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 is your testimony today that nothing has been done? >> no, sir. that's not my testimony. we have done quite a bit. we are checking. t.s.a., itself, has increased the number of inspections of employees by fivefold just in the past five months. we do that ourselves.
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>> but you don't have enough resources. you've got to get the airports to do it. >> and they are doing that. >> well, give us the report. >> and that's coming your way, sir. because we're evaluating -- i wanted to give you good specifics from the vulnerability assessment we conducted so i could give you specific answers airport by airport to exactly the question you're asking. and those are all due this week is the deadline for getting those in, and we'll compile that report and get it to the committee so you have it. >> why couldn't that have been done in time to report to this committee, since that was such an obvious question that you were going to be asked? >> well, i think the answer i would have to that 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.
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it was done in a very short time frame. it was done in conjunction with the recommendations from the aviation security advisory committee. it was done in a way that ensured i could give very specific answers and, more importantly, provide very specific direction with respect to the requirements we're going to 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 has been done. i just want to know exactly what has been so we can ensure consistency across the entire system. >> mr. administrator, you have a sterile, sterling reputation. it's not sterile. it's sterling. but that's an insufficient answer and a problem that has been begging now for two years. and the only person that's going to get the airports off their duff to limit the access into their airports is going to be you. and your administration.
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>> 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 that may be going on the plane, which is getting at the same thing? and, therefore, you got to go to a different perimeter. >> well, we do that. so i -- i'm sorry if i've given the impression that nothing is happening. that's not at all true. we have greatly enhanced our oversight of cargo screening facilities, of the catering facilities, so there are a number of measures, quite a few measures that have been put in place. i'll provide a specific outline of those for the record, but it's oversight of the caterers, catering facilities, the way in which they inspect catering carts, oversight of the cargo, the way in which that cargo is inspected, multiple steps that we're now inspecting cargo that wasn't
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done before, the amount of security perimeter checks that are being done that weren't done before, the reduction in the security perimeter entrances into each of those airports that are covered by airport security plans. so a lot has been diop. what i was -- so a lot has been done. whey was referring to is i wanted to give you a very specific detail to you airport by airport and i went back and asked for much more detail so i could outline it specifically and then move that into the required security plans in an official and directed way. >> all right. i'll just close, mr. chairman, by saying this. it's pretty simple. you lessen the number of entry points, like atlanta had over a hundred down to a handful. and you check the employees going through. you can't do that just as t.s.a. you've got to get the airports to do that. >> yes, sir. >> and that's the report that we
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want to know in our oversight capacity. >> yes, sir. >> how many airports of the 300 following the lead of miami, which did it 10 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, mr. nelson. i couldn't agree more and i think it points out the need for senate bill 2361 which i hope we can move. 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 just got to shore up. >> thank you, chairman. i, too, want to add that i hope that with the f.a.a. reauthorization on the floor that we will get the airport
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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 on 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 work force is there were 73 individuals the inspector general had identified with reported some ties to terrorism or issues of concern and as a result of that, we learned that, in fact, t.s.a. was not getting access to the real time information from the terrorist identity data -- or data to help inform your vetting of these employees that were having access to the airport.
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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 as 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 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 tide categories. that's allowed us to more effectively screen the credentialed population on a daily basis. >> and so that's going smoothly? >> it is, yes, ma'am. it is.
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>> very good. i'm glad to hear that. 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 act reform act. this is legislation that required t.s.a. to implement best practices and improved 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 so i wanted to get an update on where you were in terms of greater accountability on t.s.a.'s acquisition practices as well today. >> well, that's a particular interest of mine, as well. when i came in, i had dealt with acquisition reform in the coast guard before coming to t.s.a. and so i wanted to pay particular attention to the way in which we conducted acquisition. one of the first things i did when i came onboard last july
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was to ask the defense acquisition university to come and do a top-to-bottom review of our acquisition programs and the way in which we conduct them to look for particularly any gaps or process improvements we could make. they just provided that report to me. it took them about four and a half months or so to do that. i am very 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 do is i've got a report we're compiling now for the committee that will show the steps that we can take i think that will dramatically improve our accountability, our oversight, as well as our ability to actually -- actually field capabilityy when we need it. >> obviously that's the key because a lot of the work before wasn't fielding capabilityy. >> that's my big return. >> and sending dollars with no results. so i would love for us to receive that report so that we can understand where we stand with it and what further action that we can support you on to really
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improve the acquisition process because that's critical as you think about your mission and making sure that we have everything functioning with our security system. i also wanted to just ask about the managed inclusion issue. as i understand it, and i'm pleased that this has happened, that you've discontinued manage inclusion two. >> yes i have. >> which is i think very smart and logical in light of the purpose of your agency and security concerns. i just wanted to follow up that the app that was being used that certainly came under some criticism was an app that i understand this app essentially was some reports that it was $1.4 million for using it. i'm assuming you don't need this app anymore now that you
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discontinued the manage inclusion two. >> we are not using that app. >> okay. was that one of those which would be an example where maybe we shouldn't have purchased that? >> i looked at that. it really wasn't -- there was a lot more involved in that contract. it was apparently an i.b.m. contract from 2013. and that covered, that $1.4 million apparently covered quite a few components or things. and so the actual app was significantly less cost than that, somewhere in the thousands. nonetheless --. >> we didn't need it. frpblts nonetheless, it is not an app we're using anymore. >> right. >> and what i will tell you is that 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. it's why i d a complete review of the acquisition program. i think we can build more controls and more process improvements into it so that i can get capability out there that is at the lowest cost to the taxpayer but actually produces things that we really need.
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>> well, good. 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 appreciate it. >> i couldn't agree more. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator ayotte. senator cantwell. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and mr. neffenger, good to see you again and 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 i think even post brussels i think probably is important, mr. chairman, to do another one of those maybe in conjunction with homeland security or separate as the focus on aviation needs to continue. i wanted to ask you, mr. neffenger. i come from a border state and a lot of traffic moves between the u.s. and canada. we've always held the position that we have to have incredible security. one of our border agents caught the millennial bomber when he was on the way to come to the
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united states to either blow up l.a.x. or whatever his mission was. but a customs border person caught that individual. so we are 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 the amount of slow down, so my point is that ctac is the fastest growing hub in the country and has experienced growth rates of 7% in 2014, 13% in 2015. so we've had this map of planning for ctac which was the -- to handle 19 million passengers and last year we had 42 million passengers sofmente we have a
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plan for 19 and we had 42. so we have a problem at ctac. 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 t.s.a. officer training systems where people are going to -- i'm not -- i don't remember -- >> in georgia. >> in georgia. but you've allowed other airports to do regional training. will you allow -- because we're about to hit this spring and summer and we have cruise ships that greatly impact the flow in the northwest. will you allow for localized training so that those individuals can be trained? secondly, what information sharing do you think that we now need to do? you know that we were successful in getting the cantwell/collins bill which is to move custom border security to overseas airports and that allowed us to do that with those passengers over there. i'm fully supportive of that and we're so glad we got that in the customs bill but now what else do we need to do? are you for the machine
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reading/sharing, helping those airport facilities have better machine capabilities? what list should we share? and would you i assume with the role in the coast guard, the coast guard dogs have played a significant role in 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, i think you need a coalition of constant input on how you to get efficiency, you know, paying this much for an app that we, you know, shouldn't have --. but if you'll focus on those first questions. >> yes, ma'am. with respect to the training, we are going to do local training. you know, the idea -- >> at ctac. >> yes, ma'am. we have to mitigate what is going to be a very challenging summer season by pushing as much, many new hires as we can into the system, directing them to the airports of greatest need.
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ctac is one of those. and then ensuring we are working as much as we can with the airlines and services 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 -- >> thank you for that. that is very important. >> so we'll 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. i'm going to be meeting with the airport director and local officials as well to look at the issues and see ho you well this is going. i've been trying to do this with each of the major airports around the country. with respect to other resources we might need it falls into the category of people, training, and technology. i think that i'm very interested in the way we do acquisitions because i need to evolve my technology faster than the threat is evolving and i think there are things we can do to ensure that happens. training i want to continue to build the t.s.a. academy out so that i can effectively train people to do what they do. and on the people's side -- >> just because i only have 20 seconds are you for more list
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sharing and machine sharing with our overseas -- >> yes, ma'am, i am. >> okay. thank you. this is something, mr. chairman, i think the committee needs to spend a lot of time on. 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 there remains, i believe, a gaping 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 2007. congress wanted f.a.a. -- wanted t.s.a. to do security rules applicable to foreign repair stations. it took 10 years. but we got a rule in 2014. there is shared jurisdiction here. f.a.a. is supposed to be certifying the safety of the
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foreign repair 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 terror. now, i don't understand since we have been talking about this since 2007, i came to the senate, chaired a hearing on this in 2007, that the rule that you issued didn't even require background checks of people who worked in foreign repair stations. there is 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 simb.
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-- like a sieve. and i am grateful there has not been an incident but i can't imagine why your agency has not -- 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. >> well, senator, i recently spoke to the aircraft repair association and they had one of their meetings here in the last couple of months. and we talked about the rule and we talked about what we do. just, you know, all of those people hold f.a.a. credentials which means they're automatically vetted by us every day through terror screening data bases and we vet them against the criminal data bases as well. so anything -- we vet them against the combined terrorist screening terror base that looks
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at all of the people of interest around, and concern around the world --. >> 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 once, if you get a credential from the f.a.a. or if you apply for credential frst the f.a.a. we're going to screen you before you can get that credential and determine whether or not you can be issued that credential. so in my opinion that is the last step before you're actually hired before you can actually work on an aircraft that belongs to a u.s. flight carrier. >> well, i 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 -- my understanding that there -- who is inspecting these facilities?
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who is actually physically going to the philippines and to egypt? >> t.s.a. does. we have our aviation inspector cadre and they make regular and periodic rounds to each of these locations to ensure they're complying with the standards. >> i would love to see that schedule because i know if you had a repair station in the united states there was an f.a.a. person almost on site. >> that's right. f.a.a. also does the same. >> and 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. i would love to know how you often we're inspecting. i would also like to know because at the point in time that we looked at this before there was no effort made on perimeter security at these facilities in these other countries. if we have certain standards for our flying public and the responsibility lies with your
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agency and the f.a.a. 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 actually work hands on on an airplane, if you can reassure me of the thoroughness of that, 10 years to make the rule was not a confidence builder for me. and so i would like to be reassured that we are in 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. >> that would be terrific. thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator mccaskill. senator heller? >> mr. chairman, thank you. to you and the ranking member for holding this hearing today. i want to thank the
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administrator also for being here and answering our questions. i want to go back this allocation of personnel and ask you a couple questions. when was the last time you flew into las vegas airport? >> it's been -- it has not been since i've been administrator. >> okay. recent though? within the last couple years? >> within the last year. >> would you agree with me it is 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 go through mccarron in february of this year. in fact, it was almost a 9% growth from february previously, 2015. we're going to anticipate continuing to see this growth. can you explain why t.s.a. 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
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same number. what i found is we reduced the numbers. sometimes it takes us a while to get people hired in. let me get you the exact numbers. i think if i laid it out i can see that report there. we have higher attrition rates in some locations we like to see and sometimes it takes time to back fill those positions. let me get you what i have for numbers. >> it was promised that it would maintain 10 k-9 units at that airport. today there is only one, i think one that is actually borrowed. but can you explain to me why there's a lack of the k-9 units that were promised to that airport? >> well, we have an allocation staffing model that we have for k-9's.
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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 is one of the most effective technologies we have out there. i will -- where i use them most effectively right now and las vegas is one of those -- it is one of the best tools we have for moving people efficiently through the lines and is what we're trying to do at all of the large airports. let me look specifically at las vegas with respect to the team. i don't have the numbers right on the tap of my head and i'd like to get back to you with whatever rationale we're using currently. >> i just wanted to make sure it was not a hall of promise. >> from my perspective i'd like as i said to grow the k-9 capability across the system because i think it is hugely effective. both for detection but deterrence as well. >> okay.
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so if i'm hearing correctly, you would -- i can go back to the administration, that particular airport and say that those 110 t.s.a. personnel will be back filled or for whatever reason. >> that is my understanding. i'll verify --. >> that they will receive the 10 k-9 units. >> as i have them available, yes, sir. the challenge right now is the availability, the numbers. >> a timeline -- what would you anticipate would be a timeline to get the 10? >> there are about a thousand total k-9's operating across the country. about 670 or so are deployed to local law enforcement. so that means there's about three, a little over 300 teams that the t.s.a. has itself. of those when i came onboard last july we had only 112 trained to do passenger screening. we're converting the rest of the dogs to passenger screening. we should be up to about 270 or so by the end of the fiscal year, converted dogs, these are dogs that can do both regular cargo screening and then do
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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. >> do those teams sniff for drugs? >> they're exposed to sniffing k-9's and a large range of explosives. takes about 10 months to train the dog team. once they're trained they are incredibly effective and what they do if you've noticed in the airports, they move up and down the passenger lines and they sniff for vapor and then they trace the vapor back to the source. >> there are not many places you can get direct flights from sioux falls, south dakota but one of them is las vegas. my constituents were adding to that number in and out of your airport this year. >> yes. >> give me one second to put something on the record to clarify the previous testimony because i'm going to go vote. it is my understanding from talking to my staff that the
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research says the only certification at the foreign stations are supervisors and people who have authority to move the aircraft which is only a fraction of people working on the 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 the people working on the airplanes and foreign repair stations have not had a background check. >> i'll follow up. >> thank you. >> thank you both. senator nelson thank you for holding this hearing and administrator neffenger for your time and testimony today and the service you provide to our country. wanted to ask a couple questions. i understand you were in denver recently. >> i was. >> a couple weeks ago we received a letter from denver international airport, my office did, and it talks about the attacks in brussels underscoring the need to address the location of the t.s.a. screening check points at denver international airport.
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i think most people have had an opportunity to have a final departure from i believe it's a destination of denver or layover in denver and understand this is the fifth busiest airport in the country and 18th busiest in the world so this is a significant concern they are sharing on the screening check points in the great hall at d.i.a. i would ask, mr. chairman, that i be able to submit this letter for the record. >> without objection. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to talk to you a little about the innovation task force initiative aimed at modernizing the passenger screening process with the goal of improving service and passenger experience. last week i toured denver national airport and talked about partnering perhaps with the t.s.a. to serve and denver international airport as a prototype of modernized security
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screening. earlier this week i had an opportunity to tour the facility as well with the leadership to learn about the details of the proposal. could you provide a little more information on t.s.a.'s plans with denver international airport? >> yes. senator, thanks for that question. we're very excited at what we can potentially do there. we're seeing, as you know, huge travel volumes right now. and at some point we reach capacity no matter what we do with the current system. so what we have -- we have to address today's problem right now and we're working hard to mitigate it using passenger screening k-9's and pushing staff and saving overtime and the like. i'm convinced we need to find more efficient means of moving people through screening both to reduce pressure outside of the check points as well as to improve the efficiency while not changing the effectiveness of the program. so when kim day the airport director approached t.s.a. and said we'd like to move your passenger screening check points from the main hall floor up to what used to be the ticket counter area, it looked like it presented an opportunity to address
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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 get -- to gate. what can we do? and it is as simple as just putting automated conveyor belts and rfid tags into the bins that you use so 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 just because someone has to push their stuff down the conveyor belt. presenting at multiple stations at which you can stand to put your stuff into a bin so you're not just standing behind the guy who wore the combat boots today and waiting for everybody to take your time. that's one aspect. there is an evolution that has to happen.
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we're not going to get to sort of the check point of the future right away but we have an opportunity think there and so what we did is we 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 manufacturer's teams as well as even the f.a.a. 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 that there are incremental steps to get thrg but it gives us an opportunity to try some things and denver has been very forward leaning in terms of their willingness to pilot new ideas. >> thank you. what steps could congress take to assist with implementation of the innovative task force initiative both at d.i.a. and across the country? >> i think this committee will get a report on what we're doing there and that is part of the plan is to outline the status. there may be some opportunity to create some authorities for public/private partnerships we don't currently have, for the ability to do spiral test and
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development of new technology so you can field the technology before you go through the long, drawn out acquisition process and to reduce the potential cost penalty on the other end to do that. so i think 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 some -- a pilot, some 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're addressing what is the real problem right now. >> well, thank you. i think in the visit that i was able to take last week to see this entire empty floor space that they have as part of the redevelopment of the hotel right next to the airport, i think it presents an incredible sort of blank slate of opportunity to innovate, test, create this laboratory of security that we need really at a major airport, major u.s. airport to find the kinds of techniques, technologies, and security innovations to really
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move us forward over the next decade and beyond. as we see more passengers move through the system. >> well i agree. it is a wonderful opportunity and it's some very -- it solves some very real security problems in denver and it points to how we can solve those elsewhere as well. so we're very excited about that and we see it as an opportunity to do something very different. >> thank you very much for your time. >> mr. sherman? >> thank you, senator gardner. senator peters. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for your testimony here as well and the work you do each and every day to keep us safe. my question follows up on a comment that you made but something that was troubling to me when i had an opportunity to tour one of our large airports in the state of michigan. there is a potential vulnerability as we've talked a great deal about screening airport employees, making sure they have security checks, screening what they may be bringing in. but a concern is that there is an awful lot of material that
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goes into the airport, into the sterile area for the catering services, the restaurants, the newspaper stores, to have a stack of newspapers and put a weapon in between a stack of newspapers or whatever it may be. my understanding is there is little or no screening of that happening and yet there as great deal of material going in. you've mentioned that you are stepping up some of your catering security service protocols i believe in some earlier comments you made during this hearing. could you give me a sense of what is done now and why have we not done more given the fact that that's a lot of stuff coming in? an employee could screen clear and then be waiting for a packet of newspapers to come with contraband in the middle of it whatever that contraband may be. >> well, there's actually been a lot going on for quite sometime. the stepping up piece was adding additional layers of that. but all of that, all of those items, all of that stuff that comes into an airport, all of the things you see in the stores in the airport are all examined in some manner at some point
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before they enter the sterile area of the airport. what i can do is give you some specifics exactly how you inspect newspapers, magazines, water bottles, and the like. in addition to the catering and things that find their way on to the aircraft directly. what we've added in the past nine months or so is additional times at which that's done, additional randomness associated with how that's done so somebody can't get through a predicted layer of screening only to find a way around it later on. what i wanted to do was add a significant amount of random, unpredictability into the system so that at any given moment at any given part of the 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 is going to take a look at what you have. we've done that with both t.s.a. personnel as well as airport security personnel and other
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folks. >> so you have implemented that now for material coming in? >> right. we actually have been doing that for some number of months now. 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 to deter, detect, disrupt anybody who would attempt to do what they did in atlanta or other --. >> and the report that you're in the process of drafting now you will address that specifically and whether or not it is robust enough? >> yes, sir, we will. >> you'll report to us obviously more inspection also has a resource and that may be something we have to look at here in congress? >> yes, sir. >> i appreciate that. i've heard from airports in my state that they want to have an opportunity to comment on some proposed t.s.a. security regulations or directives before they're implemented. it has been their experience at least what they're telling me that there is a disconnect between t.s.a. officials crafting regulation and then the airports who actually have to implement
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or at least assist you in implementing a lot of these regulations. do you think the t.s.a. has taken -- they either think the t.s.a. has taken a one size fits all approach without regard to different levels of security threats experienced at different airports and different sized airports and they believe that certain security regulations or directives have the effect of assigning t.s.a. responsibilities to airports without providing any additional funding to those airports, which can be a burden for them. to what extent do airports 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. i'll speak to one example of that. i think it's a valid complaint. i think it is very easy for any government agency to get so
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focused on its mission it forgets some of the impact it has. i like this idea of full collaboration. this is a system, my job is to ensure the system operates consistently and in a coordinated fashion, but some of the best information about security is held by the people running the system every day at the airports, the airlines, the people who operate in and around those airports, all those things that come together into an airport environment. so i've been very interested in expanding our collaboration. 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 onboard and i think it was, from my perspective, i take it well. that's what i'm here to do. i see myself as the ultimate public service agency, 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
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actually worked very collaboratively with the airports and the airport association or the representative -- associations that represent the airports to craft that directive in a way that was implementable, understandable, and we actually took a lot of their advice in terms of how we 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 that you're including and involving but that's the approach i like to take. >> i appreciate that. thank you so much for your time. >> thank you, senator peters. senator daines. >> thank you. thank you chairman, thank you administrator neffenger for testifying. it is a pleasure to see you as always. >> thank you. >> unfortunately you've not had a quiet nine months on the job. terrorist attacks in brussels and paris clearly highlight the vulnerabilities at home, transportation systems will remain a target, and we must remain vigilant so thank you. i know many ideas are being
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discussed to modify t.s.a. practices, to extend perimeters, increase k-9 presence amongst other proposals, ultimately t.s.a. needs to deploy resource in a fashion that will maximize our nation's security. it also includes protecting rural access points to transportation net works. and speaking as somebody from montana, we talk about rural access points. the screening partnership program is an effective way for t.s.a. to leverage its limited resources specially with the smaller airports. out of the 21 participating airports nationally, nine are actually in montana. as a voluntary program, how does t.s.a. handle airports that may want to opt back to t.s.a. screening? >> well, you know, they have that option if they'd like to. if an airport is currently under the screening partnership
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program with a private contractor and they wish to come back to federal screening, from my perspective we have to work with them to ensure that happens. we try to ensure a smooth hand off from contractor to t.s.a. >> yeah. 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 t.s.a. screening, and the response we got back from t.s.a. was that passenger screening would cease at butte, reverse screening would be conducted upon arrival at salt lake. and so i think they were questioning that, how would eliminating screening at a commercial airport actually increase the safety of the national air space? >> let me look at that. i apologize for not having that information in front of me. >> and 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 that whether t.s.a. or s.v.p. we can always maintain the level of security at these rural airports. >> yes. >> mr. neffenger, in 2013 the inspector general reported that the nearly $900 million spent on
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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 g.a.o. reported cost saving opportunities in the k-9 program. three days ago we read about t.s.a. spending over $300,000 on a randomized ride pad to tell passengers which lane to stand in, left or right. how is t.s.a. reforming to be good stewards and gain the taxpayers' trust? >> those are good questions and the exact questions i've been asking since i came onboard. with respect to the randomized -- that was part of a larger contract so not all of that was spent on the randomizer but, nonetheless, it points to some need for oversight. a couple things we've done, one of the first things i did was to look at our acquisition program. i brought in an outside, independent agency, the defense
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acquisition university, just to look top to bottom and tell me if they saw any gaps, any process improvements we needed, and so forth. my concern is best capability at lowest price. and best to the taxpayer. that is one of the things we are doing and we are working hard on improving our oversight and controls and the like. i'm looking across every contract we have to make sure it is appropriate and the money is going to what we think it is. and it is providing the capability we are asking for. it is about making sure we take the limited resources we have and get results. >> thank you for that granular review. as you know, our security is as strong as our weakest link and enhancements at rural airports strengthen the security of the entire national airspace. at your confirmation hearing, i asked about the ait scanners
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that were to be installed in 2012 and the montana airports are still without them. in response, you committed to evaluate the system that employed the scanners. did you know what the status is of procuring this necessary security equipment for montana airports? >> this is a problem across the system. we don't have advanced imaging machines. i would like to see them deployed 100% across the system. it is a funding issue. i had to look at where we were on funding and what the deployment schedule was. that includes upgrading to the current software technology on board and making sure that they need to meet our standards. we put together our technology plan -- a five-year plan for getting those on board. if i could accelerate that plan
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depending on how we can redeploy our resources -- part of the reason of doing the acquisition study was to determine if we had internal funding that we could reallocate to greater needs such as ait machines. >> hell enough, our state capital, that airport has been waiting for four years for the deployment of that technology. the second is great false. highly important. the air force base is in great false and that is where we control one third of the nations icbms. we make sure that a lot of our security practices are secure for obvious reasons. our state capital as well as great false in the front door entrance to our icbm capability for the country. i would appreciate if you look at that. thank you very much. -- sen. daines:
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thank you. we have a couple of members returning from the vote on the floor. . nelson.or >> mr. administrator, some real .rogress is being made at nist they are working on a detection system that imitates a dog's nose, dogs being so effect it. the bottom line for this agency. possibleou see as the future of the use of such systems that mimic a dog's nose? >> if they can be effective, that would be wonderful. they are a long way from deploying a system like that. we are aware of that. we have some of our folks
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working with those scientists to see the nature of that capability. what it shows us is that we have to be thinking about the future of screening because you have to continually evolve the technology that we have. i am a big fan of that and we need to do that. wherever possible, highlight it in limited controlled situations to determine if it works in the real world environment. i am intrigued by it. i think there is some potential there. if it works, it could perhaps significantly augment our capability that we currently have. >> do you know any of the data and the science behind this device? it but not little of enough to not get myself in trouble if i were to speak of it publicly. i can promise you a deeper dive for the record on that. >> we will ask the administrator of nist as well. >> ok. >> over and out?
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all right. we do not have any -- unless someone breaks through the door momentarily -- admiral, thank you for your time, for your responsiveness. we will have some questions for the record that we will follow up with and i ask that members that you want to submit questions for the record that they do that in the two-week timeframe. and that you be as responsive as you can to getting back on those. we look forward to continuing the discussion. these are issues of great importance to our country, national security, and homeland security. you have in the norm is responsibility. but we want to support you in every way that we can and make sure that we get the job done right. so, thank you for being here today. and with that, his hearing is adjourned.
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>> next come up live, your calls and comments on washington journal. in the newsmakers with senator mark warner. after that, defense secretary ashton carter outlined his plans
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to restructure the u.s. military. >> the book tells of both the story of the fact that the manuscript come this national treasure is not what we ought while also trying to chronologically think about what was madison encountering at the time and keeping those two narratives straight was quite tricky for a while. >> tonight, on q&a, boston college law school professor mary builder discusses her book "madison hand," which takes a critical look at the notes madison wrote during and after it the constitutional convention. >> he took notes on a sheet of paper. he wrote on the back, across the middle and on the backside. at some point, he sowed all of these pieces of paper together into a manuscript. one of the wonderful things that we noticed when we were down there was that the last quarter
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thehe manuscript, though -- pieces he had sown did not match the earlier one. this confirmed my suspicion that the end of the manuscript had been written later. it was a wonderful thing to get that feedback in person. at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. morning, an officer from the american enterprise institute and rudolph de leon discuss ashton carter's plan to restructure the u.s. military. ryall, director of the international consortium of investigative journalists, talks about the release of the panama papers last week and efforts by the u.s. to stop tax havens like panama. and the campaign director of democracy spring outlined his organizations plan to protest this weekend in washington, d.c.
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as always, we will take your calls and you can join the conversation on facebook and twitter. washington journal is next. host: bernie sanders and ted cruz were the winners in yesterday's voting. senator sanders took the wyoming caucuses, and senator cruz won in colorado. both are closing the gaps just a little bit more with the front-runners. next up, a week from tuesday, new york. meantime, here in washington, the u.s. house is about to return from a break of nearly three weeks, and on the agenda, border security and vaccines for the zika virus. meantime, democrats in congress are trying to push nationally for something the states are doing more and more of these days, guaranteeing paid parental leave. the state of new york and the city of san francisco are the latest to put some plans in


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