To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.
WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today participated in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing where she pressed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske about the Trump Administration and TSA’s continued efforts to eliminate critical airport security programs, such as Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPER) teams and Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Reimbursements grants. Senator Hassan also confronted the witness regarding reports that the TSA was considering eliminating screenings for 150 smaller airports, leaving those airports and flights vulnerable to threats.
VIPER teams and LEO Reimbursement grants are the only federal programs designed to help secure the public or “non-sterile” areas of airports where people can enter without tickets. VIPER teams patrol the public areas of transportation hubs to identify threats and to present a visible deterrent to any individual contemplating a terror attack. The LEO reimbursement program provides funding to state and local law enforcement to patrol the public areas of airports. These programs help protect public areas against terror attacks like those carried out in recent years.
“These proposals suggest that TSA is trying to pull back its resources from a large number of airports all across this country,” Senator Hassan said. “If true, that’s really an alarming trend. While terror groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda have suffered some defeats on the battlefield, they still pose an extraordinary threat to our homeland and to our aviation system, making these cuts all the more concerning.”
Senator Hassan asked Administrator Pekoske to explain his reasoning for the Trump Administration and TSA’s proposal to eliminate these programs in the FY 2019 budget.
“These are very difficult choices that we had to make but it does not in any way, shape, or form signal anything but strong support for those programs...These programs recognize the fact that there is some existing capability at the state and local level," Administrator Pekoske said.
Senator Hassan responded, "Please understand that what we expect from you is to stand up for the security needs for our airports, for our homeland, and the notion that we would cut back after other priorities - like big tax cuts - have been provided is really astonishing to me. I will also tell you that state and local governments are already - most of them - very extended themselves, and this is a federal function to keep our airports safe... I think you need to be standing up for these programs and refusing to cut them unless you have security information or intelligence information that tells us we don't need them anymore."