Is $34 Million Enough to Speed Up Airport Security?

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Long airport security lines are creating headaches for travelers, airlines and the Transportation Security Administration. But help may soon be on the way to ease the much-publicized airport security gridlock.

The TSA has received congressional approval to shift $34 million between accounts to hire more airport security officers and pay overtime for existing personnel, CNN Money reports.

The TSA plans to spend roughly $26 million of the funds to pay for additional overtime and part-time hours for existing airport security officers and about $8 million will be used to hire 768 new security officers this month.

According to USA Today, congressional approval came on the heels of White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s assertion that long airport security lines could be reduced if Congress approved more funding for the TSA.

“I do know that the TSA takes very seriously the responsibility they have to protect our aviation system, but also to minimize the inconvenience to U.S. travelers,” Earnest said. “A problem that people have noticed can be traced back pretty easily to the inability of Republicans in Congress to govern the country.”

In a May 10 letter to leaders of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Democratic U.S. Reps. Bill Keating, Donald Payne and Kathleen Rice urged swift approval of the money shift. The letter made note of long wait times at security checkpoints at New York City-area airports — LaGuardia International, JFK International and Newark Liberty International airports — as well as in Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Denver and Seattle.

“The shortage of TSA screeners is causing a lot of problems for passengers in airports across the country, and it’s only going to get worse this summer,” Rice said. “We need to act now to get more screeners on the ground at airport checkpoints, or we can expect even longer lines and wait times, more passengers experiencing travel disruptions and more airports forced to consider privatizing security.”

The TSA originally planned to hire new officers by September, but with an 8 percent increase in air travelers expected for the busy summer travel season — the TSA said more security personnel are needed now.

The TSA has said that an increase in security officers won’t necessarily mean quicker security checkpoints because many airport checkpoints are already operating at full capacity, CNN Money reports.

In a related development, two U.S. lawmakers earlier this week sent a letter to 12 major U.S. airlines, urging them to drop their fees for checked luggage to help alleviate the “staggeringly long lines” at airport security checkpoints across the United States this summer.

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