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Katko, DeFazio and Thompson Renew Fight for Better Funding of TSA

March 12, 2021 by TWN Staff
TSA officer carrying a bin of prohibited items that passengers have surrendered. (Transportation Security Administration)

WASHINGTON – Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., has joined with Democratic colleagues Reps. Peter DeFazio, of Oregon, and Bennie Thompson, of Mississippi, in a renewed push to bolster funding for the Transportation Security Administration and better ensure the safety of America’s air travelers.

Since 2013, the lawmakers said, Congress has been diverting one-third of the revenue collected from airline passenger security fees to pay for unrelated government spending.

In Fiscal Year 2019, they said, more than $4.25 billion was collected in security fees. However, they complained, $1.36 billion of the total was diverted away from aviation security.

And more than $19 billion in total will be diverted by FY 2027 unless current law is changed, they added.

According to Katko and his colleagues, the Funding for Aviation Screeners and Threat Elimination Restoration (FASTER) Act would eliminate this diversion, ensure that passenger security fees go solely towards aviation security, and prevent Congress from raiding the funds in the future.

“I’ve consistently raised serious concerns about the need to improve our aviation security,” said Katko, ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security. “The FASTER Act allows TSA to invest in more robust airport security infrastructure by redirecting revenues accumulated by security fees. Ensuring TSA has adequate staff and resources is essential to our national security, and I am proud to once again co-sponsor this legislation that improves TSA preparedness.”

TSA passenger screening canine sniffing a passenger.(Transportation Security Administration)

The legislation would also ensure that the TSA Administrator can access September 11 Security Fee revenue during any government shutdown. This will provide TSA with the necessary ability to provide financial stability to its hard-working TSOs, who are amongst the lowest-paid federal employees, in the event of a future lapse in appropriations.

“As the COVID-19 recovery continues and Americans return to traveling, it’s imperative that TSA has the necessary resources to ensure our aviation security,” said DeFazio, chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “The FASTER Act will finally end this budget gimmick and provide TSA the full funding that it needs and that Congress intended it to get—funding that is already paid by travelers —to invest in state-of-the-art equipment and hire additional staff in order to make air travel not only safer, but more efficient.”

Thompson, chair of the Committee on Homeland Security, said it simply “defies logic” that such a significant portion of the security fees passengers pay in their airline tickets are not going towards aviation security and the functions of the Transportation Security Administration.

 “As TSA gears up for the return of the traveling public as we begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, TSA must have every resource at its disposal to ensure our skies are secure,” Thompson said. “The FASTER Act will allow TSA to retain all the fees it collects so it can properly staff airports, invest in new technology, and efficiently and effectively secure our aviation sector.”

The bill has already garnered the support of organized labor and members of the airline industry.

“You get what you pay for … unless it’s the airline security fee that accompanies your ticket,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. “That money is directed to all kinds of other priorities while aviation security remains subject to government shutdowns.

“We applaud Chairman DeFazio, Chairman Thompson, and Ranking Member Katko for introducing the FASTER Act that would end diversion of the 9/11 security fee and ensure TSA is funded through any lapse in appropriations,” Nelson said. “September 11th changed aviation security forever and Congress established the 9/11 Security Fee to ensure aviation security would always be funded. We urge Congress to pass the FASTER Act without delay.”

“It is well past time to fully restore the 9/11 Passenger Security Fee to its intended purpose of paying the cost of TSA to screen passengers and their baggage,” said Airports Council International-North American President and CEO Kevin M. Burke.  “For nearly a decade, billions have been taken from TSA’s core screening mission to subsidize other federal programs, delaying the deployment of new technology, the maintenance of systems, and the addition of new officers to TSA security checkpoints.  Our aviation passengers deserve better.” 

“Americans deserve to know that any monies paid by travelers for transportation security are spent to keep the flying public safe and not used for other, unrelated purposes.,” agreed Everett Kelley, national president, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO. “AFGE is especially thankful Chair DeFazio wisely included a provision to ensure funds could be available to keep Transportation Security Officers on the job in the event of a future government shutdown. The safety of air passengers is of the utmost importance, and we must use our resources accordingly.”

 

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