Katko Opening Statement in Hearing on the State of the Transportation Security Administration
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, delivered the following opening statement in a full committee hearing entitled, “20 Years After 9/11: The State of the Transportation Security Administration”
Ranking Member Katko’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)
Thank you, Chairman Thompson, for convening this important hearing today.
On September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers proceeded through U.S. airport security and, once onboard, commandeered four commercial aircraft, flying them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The Transportation Security Administration was created in the months after the terrorist attacks and made dramatic changes to our travel landscape.
Gone are the days when you could arrive for a flight minutes before take-off or meet your arriving family members at their gate. But with the immense help of the private sector, TSA quickly stood up and established a robust aviation screening system. Our Nation is grateful.
Over the past 20 years, TSA has continuously adapted their screening procedures based on critical intelligence and risk, while also expanding its focus on securing surface transportation.
When our Committee was in New York recently at the 9/11 Museum and Memorial for the 20th anniversary of that terrible day in our Nation’s history, we all reflected on the nearly 3,000 Americans that died on 9/11.
We didn’t believe it was possible at the time, but TSA – and the Department of Homeland Security – have been successful in preventing a significant 9/11-style attack on our transportation system over the last 20 years.
That’s an amazing feat, and I want to keep it that way for the next 20 years. I know all the Members of the Committee feel the same.
Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to enter written testimonies from former Secretary Chertoff and former Administrator Hawley into the record. We appreciate their service, as well as the service of the esteemed panelists who are here before the committee today.
It is impressive that we will hear from four of the seven Senate-confirmed TSA Administrators. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do in keeping our country secure.
As we approach TSA’s 20th anniversary on November 19th, it is imperative that we now turn our attention to how TSA should be positioned to counter new and emerging threats. Threats we couldn’t conceive of in the early days after 9/11.
I’m extremely concerned that our withdrawal from Afghanistan will create a new safe haven for terrorists. Our homeland is again at risk with the rise of ISIS and Al Qaeda in that region.
As terrorist threats continue to evolve, TSA needs to accelerate its deployment of next-generation technology and biometrics to the checkpoint. We cannot delay these investments or accept movement at a snail’s pace, lest we risk being caught flat-footed once again.
These needed technologies include credential authentication technology, computed tomography, advanced imaging technology, stand-off detection, and more.
TSA must be agile and ensure that its workforce is positioned to counter the evolving threats we will see over the next 20 years.
As former Administrator Kip Hawley said in his statement for the record, “intelligence and technology are critical to effective security, but people were – and still are – TSA’s strongest asset.” I wholeheartedly agree and I thank the employees of TSA for their service to securing the Nation’s transportation systems.
Their dedication has shown through as they have continued to perform their critical duties in the midst of a global pandemic. Over 10,000 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and 29 have tragically died.
I’ve spoken to Administrator Pekoske regularly regarding my concern that the front-line TSA workforce is not paid enough and I know he shares that concern. Transportation Security Officers have an important job and their pay does not reflect it.
I’ve heard time and time again that the pay issues are going to be fixed but they never are. I look forward to hearing from Administrator Pekoske today on the details of the compensation he is providing the front-line workforce and what Congress can do to support these pay initiatives.
As we reflect on the past 20 years of TSA and its next 20 years, we must never forget.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.