Cantwell Requests More Bomb-Sniffing Canines for Sea-Tac

Request of TSA Administrator Comes as Wait Times Rise at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today in a Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) requested the help of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske to combat increasing wait times at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Specifically, Sen. Cantwell asked Administrator Pekoske to increase the airport’s number of Passenger Screening Canines (PSCs) in order to improve the efficiency of Sea-Tac’s security checkpoints.

“We know that canines are effective, and we know that Sea-Tac is one of the fastest growing airports in the United States,” said Senator Cantwell. “And yet, we’re down from nine canine units, from the 10 that were promised, to five. TSA needs to work with me and Sea-Tac on increasing those canine units. They do such fabulous work, and it is just an amazing level of deterrence that we need to have everywhere.”

Senator Cantwell’s request comes amidst increasing passenger wait times over the last six months, combined with a decreasing numbers of the canines staffed to the airport.

“Unfortunately, we have seen significant increases in passenger screening wait times at our airport over the last six months,” said Lance Lyttle, managing director for Sea-Tac, in a recent letter to Senator Cantwell. “After a successful summer travel season, the fall and winter have brought average wait times that are sometimes double the goal we have for throughput; last week for example, only 65% of passengers made it through security in less than twenty minutes. We are deeply concerned that these problems will not only continue, but increase as the busy spring travel season approaches.

Despite being allocated ten dogs by the TSA’s staffing model and having as many as nine working at the airport during the summer, only five canines are currently in use at Sea-Tac. The use of canines has proven successful in the past, helping the airport reduce wait times by nearly half while maintaining a high level of passenger safety. With an increase of nearly two million travelers in 2017, Sea-Tac continues to be one the fastest growing airports in the country.

During his exchange with Senator Cantwell, Administrator Pekoske announced that Sea-Tac would have additional canine teams online by the end of March and committed to working towards additional capacity.

“[Sea-Tac] should have all of [their] canine units back in full force by the end of March…And that’s part of our effort to try to increase the throughput through our training center, and really very carefully monitoring the allocation of canine resources across the board,” said Administrator Pekoske.

Senator Cantwell has long been a proponent of passenger screening canines. In October, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee passed the TSA Modernization Act, which included a provision championed by Cantwell to train and deploy more of these bomb-sniffing dogs in airports across the country. Cantwell has also previously worked with the Port of Seattle and the TSA to reduce the growing wait times at Sea-Tac and advocated for additional security personnel and resources to keep up with the uptick in traffic.

Senator Cantwell serves as the lead Democrat on the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security.