Commerce Committee Passes Cantwell Provision to Bring Bomb-Sniffing Dogs to Sea-Tac, Other Airports

Provision included in larger Cantwell-sponsored TSA Modernization Act

Legislation will mean more K-9s, enhanced security, shorter lines, more information for passengers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee passed the TSA Modernization Act, including Senator Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) provision to help deploy more bomb-sniffing canines to airports across the country. The bill passed unanimously and now heads to the Senate for full consideration.

Cantwell’s canine provision addresses concerns from Sea-Tac and other growing airports that TSA is not providing the canines quickly enough to meet the security and passenger demands of their facilities. Stationing these highly-trained animals at security checkpoints cuts security lines almost in half while maintaining a high level of safety for passengers. Canines have helped Sea-Tac airport reduce wait times, particularly during the busy summer travel season.

“This bill will allow larger airports to supply canines, which have been trained by third parties, to TSA to be used in passenger screening and speeding up the lines. This change I think will produce more canine units for us,” said Senator Cantwell. “Passenger screening canines are one of the most important tools that airports can have. And because TSA wants to improve the security and speed up lines at the same time, these are a vital tool in doing the efficient work that airports need to achieve.”

Specifically, the legislation requires TSA to develop certification standards that allow for use of third party explosive detection dogs by TSA and aviation stakeholders, and allows airports to provide trained passenger screening dogs for use by TSA in cases where TSA is unable to provide the dogs themselves.

In response to SeaTac’s record-setting growth, Cantwell worked with the airport and TSA to dedicate additional security personnel, canine units, and other resources to the airport in 2016. While improvements were made during last year’s high-traffic season, the TSA must provide more canine units and sustain existing support in other areas to meet the expected uptick in traffic.

Cantwell, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, introduced the TSA Modernization Act with Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

The legislative proposal also includes reforms of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) organizational structure, provisions to advance development and acquisition of new security technologies, improvements of public area security, and provides pathways to mitigate frustrating security delays. In addition, S. 1872 would authorize funding at TSA for three years, $7.81 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2018, $7.85 billion in FY 2019, and $7.89 billion in FY 2020, while reauthorizing TSA aviation security policies and programs. The total budget authority for TSA in FY 2017 was $7.77 billion.

The TSA Modernization Act also includes measures to:

-          Establish a five-year administrator term – Establishes a five-year term for the TSA Administrator to help maintain leadership stability at TSA and bridge administration transitions (similar to the current FAA administrator).

-          Expand PreCheck – Requires TSA to establish at least four private sector partnerships to promote and make it easier for passengers to enroll in the TSA PreCheck program so more travelers are vetted in advance and receive expedited screening. Directs TSA to meet the following targets for expanding PreCheck enrollment from its current five million enrollees: FY 2018 – seven million, FY 2019 – 10 million, FY 2020 – 15 million.

-          Provide wait times in real-time – Requires TSA to make information on wait times at each airport security checkpoint available to the public online and in airport terminals to inform and improve the travel experience for aviation passengers.

-          Deploy new security technology– Instructs TSA to authorize third party testing and evaluation of security screening equipment and to harmonize and recognize international testing and evaluation in order to enable faster deployment of the latest and most effective screening technologies.