Cantwell Questions TSA Administrator on Airport Security, Presses for New Technology Solutions

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – In the wake of the theft of a plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last month, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Commerce Aviation Operations, Safety, & Security Subcommittee, today questioned Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David P. Pekoske in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing about efforts to update airport security measures.

“I definitely want to recognize the air traffic controllers and the military and the first responders who handled the situation so well,” Senator Cantwell said. “The incident, though, raises questions about our layers of security.”

In his response, Pekoske highlighted steps taken by the TSA to prevent immediate “copycat” incidents and pointed to several ongoing investigations that will provide information to help update long-term security measures. 

“As soon as the incident happened – and we do this all the time; if something happens in a particular airport, we telegraph to all of our federal security directors throughout our entire system so they can work with their airline and airport partners in their locations to make sure we don’t have a copycat issue, that we close up or put additional eyes on whatever vulnerability might have existed,” Pekoske responded.

Cantwell also discussed integrating new technologies that could better track planes and other airport assets on the ground and pressed Pekoske to look into implementing these systems as new air traffic control systems are considered.

“…[W]hy not have better situational awareness on all ground planes or all airport assets?” Cantwell asked. “[I]t’s not just security but also the efficiency of how we move things through the system. And having that level of efficiency, of knowing where everything on the ground is, and where it’s going and whether it should be moved or not be moved, or is part of a repair plan, or whatever the information is… So, why not capitalize on that data and information and use it to our advantage on the security side as well?”

Senator Cantwell has long been a leader on aviation security issues in Congress. She authored legislation to help bring more bomb-sniffing dogs, which improve security and decrease passenger wait times, to airports across the country and worked with TSA to deploy new dogs to Sea-Tac to improve security checkpoint wait times at the airport. She has also worked with her colleagues to oppose cuts proposed by the Trump Administration for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, a critical mass transit security program.