Last updated: 01:48 PM ET, Sat May 21 2016

TSA Head: Money From Government Is Just “Down Payment”

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | May 21, 2016

TSA Head: Money From Government Is Just “Down Payment”

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Travelers won’t like to hear this, since it’s essentially putting a band-aid on a wound that needs stitches, but Transportation Security Administration chief Admiral Peter Neffenger said Friday the additional resources Congress issued the agency is just a “good down payment,” and warned of continued long lines at airport security checkpoints.

But if $34 million in TSA funding to let the agency pay overtime to existing staff and hire more than 750 extra screeners by June 15 is just the down payment, one has to wonder what the mortgage is on what promises to be a long, hot (tempered) summer.

According to the Associated Press, Neffenger continued to say that a lack of staffing and elevated attrition levels in the TSA are the culprits.

"I think this summer is going to continue to be a challenge," he said at a news conference at O'Hare International Airport. "I think we're doing everything we can to mitigate that from the larger standpoints. I think you'll still see crowds in airports. My goal is to keep you moving. We can't have a situation like we had here in Chicago."

Another part of the problem is the loss of Managed Inclusion, which the TSA implemented to help reduce long security lines. TSA officers would randomly pick passengers from the regular security line and place them into the Pre-Check checkpoints, even if they were not a Pre-Check member. The practice was suspended last year after government auditors found lapses in security.

The frustrating situation in Chicago – and all over the country, for that matter, -- was chronicled by this man’s video at Chicago’s Midway Airport last week.

It was the second time this week Neffenger was in Chicago to meet with local officials, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said he would begin to monitor the situation with what he called an "accountability scorecard."

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk had some especially harsh words.

"The passengers at O'Hare and Midway will decide if the wait times are reasonable, not bureaucrats,” he said. “Over the next ten days, the flying public will hold TSA accountable for safe and quick security screening. If this problem isn’t solved before Memorial Day weekend travel peaks, TSA leadership should change.”

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