Cantwell Seeks Information on Bomb-Sniffing Dogs for Sea-Tac
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent a letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske requesting further clarification on his commitment to provide additional passenger screening canine teams to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport by March 2018. Administrator Pekoske made this commitment to Cantwell at a U.S. Senate Commerce aviation subcommittee hearing in January.
“I am writing to thank you for your commitment to ten canine teams in service at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport by March of this year,” wrote Senator Cantwell. “I would appreciate an update from your staff on the specific plan and timeline for this to occur.”
In the letter, Senator Cantwell highlighted the importance of passenger screening canines to addressing increasing wait times at Sea-Tac.
“Maintaining a sufficient number of TSA passenger screening canines at Sea-Tac is an essential part of meeting the airport’s needs,” Cantwell wrote. “These dogs can almost double screening lane throughput and are a highly effective resource to increase checkpoint efficiency. Sea-Tac estimates that the difference in passenger throughput is 140 passengers per hour for a screening lane without a canine, and 245 passengers per hour with a canine.”
Sea-Tac continues to be one of the fastest growing airports in the country. Since 2010, the airport’s traffic has increased from 30 million passengers to almost 47 million travelers per year. In 2017 alone, two million more passengers traveled through Sea-Tac than in 2016. Amidst this growth, Sea-Tac currently only has five passenger screening canine teams, despite being allocated 10 by the TSA’s staffing model.
In addition to her committee hearing in January, Senator Cantwell has long advocated for passenger screening canines as an effective means for reducing wait times while maintaining high levels of passenger safety. In October 2017, the Senate Commerce Committee passed the TSA Modernization Act, including 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 has advocated for additional security personnel and resources to keep up with the uptick in traffic.
Senator Cantwell serves as the lead Democrat on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security.
The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:
Dear Administrator Pekoske:
I am writing to thank you for your commitment to ten canine teams in service at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport by March of this year. I would appreciate an update from your staff on the specific plan and timeline for this to occur.
Sea-Tac Airport remains one of the fastest growing airports in the country, having grown from just over 30 million passengers in 2010 to nearly 47 million last year. While the airport is investing billions in infrastructure and technology upgrades to catch up to the needed capacity for their facility, they rely heavily on TSA to help meet their security and customer service objectives related to passenger wait times at security screening checkpoints.
Maintaining a sufficient number of TSA passenger screening canines at Sea-Tac is an essential part of meeting the airport’s needs. These dogs can almost double screening lane throughput, and are a highly effective resource to increase checkpoint efficiency. Sea-Tac estimates that the difference in passenger throughput is 140 passengers per hour for a screening lane without a canine, and 245 passengers per hour with a canine. Currently, the airport only has five TSA passenger screening canines.
March marks the beginning of the busy spring travel season, and has historically been one of the most difficult times of year to maintaining efficient passenger screening wait times. In spring 2016, for example, wait times regularly exceeded an hour at Sea-Tac. Having a full complement of passenger screening canines as prescribed by the TSA staffing model is the best way to ensure passenger screening wait times are as short as possible over the next few months at Sea-Tac.
I appreciative your partnership in ensuring that Sea-Tac remains able to accommodate its growing demand. I also appreciate the willingness which you have expressed to travel to the Northwest to witness these challenges firsthand, and I look forward to discussing these issues further when you are able to join me on a visit to Sea-Tac. In the meantime, I look forward to receiving additional information on the March timeline.
Thank you again for your leadership on behalf of our nation’s airports.
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