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SPECIAL: Rand Beers on Why Aviation Security is Worth the Wait

SPECIAL: Rand Beers on Why Aviation Security is Worth the Wait Homeland Security TodayMemorial Day weekend — the unofficial start of summer – just came and went. And as the weather gets warmer and the school year ends, our thoughts turn to travel.  Many of us will fly to our summer destinations—about 2 million people every day.

A stronger national economy means the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects 2016 to be the busiest travel year ever. Right now, TSA screens 125,000 more people each day than they did at the same time last year. At this rate, TSA will screen more than 740 million passengers and flight crews this year.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where these security procedures are necessary. Our transportation systems—particularly our aviation systems—are prime targets for terrorists. This is as true today as it was on September 11, 2001. And just as the threats against our aviation system have evolved, TSA has adapted and enhanced its screening procedures to keep the traveling public safe.

An increased number of travelers and an increased need for security has led to long lines and frustrated passengers. In addition, more of those passengers are choosing to carry on their luggage. Many of those bags are also overpacked, and all of them must be screened.

For the safety of our transportation systems and our traveling public, we cannot shortsightedly value convenience over security. TSA is taking every possible step to alleviate the wait while maintaining security standards that help each traveler reach their destination safely.

To help manage the long lines, TSA is increasing the number of its Transportation Security Officers and is converting part time officers to full time ones. More officers, and more work hours, mean more hands on deckto help passengers move through checkpoints without compromising security.

TSA is also adding more canine teams to help screen passengers. These teams can screen an additional 5,000 passengers a day, which doubles the number of passengers who can receive expedited screening.

In addition, TSA is working with airports and airlines to find ways to manage checkpoint lines, passenger flows and communication with the traveling public. Some airports and airlines are even helping TSA with personnel-intensive, non-security parts of the process, like helping return personal property bins. It’s a good example of the public and private sectors working together to solve a difficult problem.

TSA is also expanding enrollment efforts for TSA Pre✓.  TSA Pre✓ and Global Entry benefit both the person moving through the line and TSA. For TSA Pre✓ travelers, the benefits include not having to remove their shoes, liquids, laptops, light jackets or belts. TSA Pre✓ vetting also translates into greater efficiencies for TSA so they can focus their resources on unknown passengers.

However, none of these steps are a short-term fix. They’re part of TSA’s long term commitment, through this summer and beyond, to enhancing security in our nation’s airports and making sure everyone can travel safely.

If your summer plans involve flying, there are steps you can take to trim the wait and speed through security. Checking luggage means TSA has fewer bags to screen at checkpoints. If passengers choose to carry on luggage, remember that overstuffed bags are harder to screen, so packing an uncluttered, organized bag helps the line move faster. Travelers should also remember to leave prohibited items—like firearms and large containers of liquids—at home, so they won’t cause an alarm and hold up the line.

[Editor’s note: Homeland Security Today just reported that 2015 was another record-breaking year for TSA confiscations of more often than not loaded handguns in carry-on luggage, adding to the stress and strain of speedy screening]

Passengers can also shorten their wait times by enrolling in TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry. Efficiency and security are not opposing goals. Above all, TSA wants to make sure every traveler gets where they’re going … and gets there safely. We all play a part in keeping the lines moving, and keeping our airports safe. Together, let’s keep this summer travel season a safe one.

Rand Beers is a part-time Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employee who previously served as Deputy Homeland Security Advisor to the President; Acting Secretary of DHS from September to December of 2013; and under secretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate.


Since 1971, Beers has dutifully worked to ensure the security of the United States. He was directly involved in a panoply of national and international security matters during an unusually long tour of duty at the National Security Council under presidents Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and, finally, George W. Bush.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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