Cantwell Secures Commitment from TSA to Reduce Wait Times at Sea-Tac Airport Through Local Training of Transportation Security Officers

TSA also acknowledged need to expand and enhance technology, information sharing with overseas airports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) secured a critical fix to reduce unacceptably long wait times at security screening checkpoints at Sea-Tac International Airport. In a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, Peter Neffenger, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), agreed to allow Sea-Tac airport to temporarily reinstitute local training of Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) rather than requiring them to travel to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) headquarters in Georgia. 

The localized training will help Sea-Tac reduce security wait times. Due to the training center’s limited space, Sea-Tac’s TSOs are facing a backlog of training – allowing only 17-19 of its 32 available security lanes to be open at peak times, which in the month of March contributed to roughly 1,000 passengers missing flights due to long wait times.

“Sea-Tac is the fastest growing hub in the country. We’ve had growth rates of 7% in 2014 and 13% in 2015. Last year, we had 42 million passengers, but only planned for 19 million. We have a problem at Sea-Tac.” said Cantwell, a senior member on the Senate Commerce Committee. “Will you allow for localized regional training?”

“Yes, we are going to do local training at Sea-Tac,” said Administrator Neffenger.

Port of Seattle Commissioner Fred Felleman applauded Cantwell’s work on improving wait times at Sea-Tac security checkpoints.

“The Port of Seattle appreciates U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s leadership in supporting the Sea-Tac’s efforts to reduce long wait times at security checkpoints,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Fred Felleman. “TSA staffing at Sea-Tac is inadequate, and we haven’t even reached our busiest time of the year.  We’re working hard for a less turbulent summer season. Senator Cantwell’s efforts will significantly benefit our travelers.”

Enhanced Technology and Information Sharing

Neffenger also acknowledged the need for enhanced and expanded technology and intelligence sharing between the United States and foreign partners. These safety measures not only improve security, but also streamline international travel by avoiding the need for further screening in the United States.

Today’s Commerce Committee hearing is part of an ongoing effort to increase security at airports and transportation hubs. Yesterday, Cantwell announced she will seek to attach a new proposal to strengthen U.S. airport security, especially in non-secure “soft” target areas at airports like check-in and baggage claim areas, to the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill.

Cantwell recently wrote to Administrator Neffenger, urging him to allow local training of TSOs. Dozens of SeaTac’s newly hired TSOs have been unable to receive their necessary training because of limited space at the FELTC.