Gimenez Opening Statement in TSA Hearing
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Ranking Member of the Transportation & Maritime Subcommittee, delivered the following opening statement in a subcommittee hearing entitled, “The State of the Transportation Security Administration.”
Ranking Member Gimenez’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)
Thank you, Chairwoman Watson Coleman, for holding this hearing today.
I thank TSA Administrator Dave Pekoske for being here to discuss the FY 2023 President’s Budget request for the agency. The last two years have been very difficult for our country, and I applaud the men and women of TSA for their continued dedication to securing the Nation’s transportation system. Over 23,000 TSA employees have been infected with COVID-19 and tragically, 36 employees have died. I commend Administrator Pekoske for the flexible workforce and leave policies that he implemented during the COVID-19 national emergency. These important, workforce-centered policies were possible thanks to the authorities granted by Congress in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001.
The President’s Budget projects an increase in air travel volume of 4.5 percent for next year. My home airport of Miami International is already seeing this rise in passenger volume, with over 4 million travelers per month this spring. This summer, TSA is expecting to screen upwards of 3 million passengers daily, which would beat the pre-pandemic record. I look forward to hearing from TSA on their hiring and retention plan to ensure that the required number of screeners are in place at airports Nationwide.
I am pleased that the President’s Budget finally requests funding for pay raises for TSA’s front-line workforce. During my time in Congress, I have vocally supported the need for increased salaries for Transportation Security Officers and Federal Air Marshals. I share my colleagues’ concerns that pay for the front-line needs to be raised and I hope to learn more details today on how the Administration will ensure these salary increases are fully funded.
I do have concerns with the lack of investment for aviation security technology in the President’s Budget. The request for Computed Tomography, TSA’s top procurement priority, was only $105 million for 108 systems. It will take 15 years for all the CT systems to be procured and deployed to airports Nationwide. In addition, there is limited or no funding requested for Credential Authentication Technology, Advanced Imaging Technology, biometrics, and detection at range. I want to hear from the Administrator today on what more can be done to prioritize and accelerate these important security capabilities.
Lastly, I’m pleased that Administrator Pekoske has been nominated to serve another 5-year term at TSA. The agency has historically struggled with instability at the top, which is the primary reason Congress enacted a 5-year term into law in 2018. I thank Administrator Pekoske for his continued service and steady leadership at such a critical national security agency. I look forward to working with you and making sure our Nation’s transportation security is positioned to respond to evolving threats.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, and I yield back.