April 05, 2017

Under Questioning from Senator Hassan, Secretary Kelly Commits to Working to Prevent President Trump’s Budget Cuts to Airport Security

Under Questioning from Senator Hassan, Secretary Kelly Commits to Working to Prevent President Trump's Budget Cuts to Airport Security

Senator Also Presses Secretary Kelly on President's Opioid Commission, Cyber Security Programs, Expanding Visa Security Units

Watch video of Senator Hassan's questioning here.

WASHINGTON - Today, Senator Maggie Hassan participated in a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, where under her questioning, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly committed to working to prevent President Trump's budget cuts to airport security, which threaten public safety and counterterrorism efforts.

Underscoring the increasing threat to airports across the country, particularly in "non-sterile" areas of airports such as baggage claim, Senator Hassan questioned Secretary Kelly on the impact of President Trump's proposed budget cuts that would slash funding to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), including the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR), teams, the Behavior Detection Officer program, and TSA grants to reimburse state and local law enforcement for their patrols at airports.See below for the exchange between Senator Hassan and Secretary Kelly.

Senator Hassan: Amid this increasing threat to our airports, why is the administration cutting these key counter terrorism measures?

Secretary Kelly: The VIPR teams for sure are something that I'm working very hard to save, as far as the grants go, and this doesn't fall under the sanctuary city thing or anything like that, I think the expectation is that parking lots and areas outside of the immediate, the TSA security zones, really belong to the state and local, you know the airports are great generators of revenue, necessary for various states...so I think the thinking is that for outside the security perimeter that's established by TSA that would belong more to the local community.

Senator Hassan: Well, as a former Governor, I might suggest that we discuss that a little bit more because I know how much additional work securing even the non-sterile areas are and is a partnership to be sure, but I'm very concerned money is not growing on trees in our state budgets, and so I think it's something we really need to look at because the overall security climate at airports I think will really be compromised with[out] those grants.

Senator Hassan also questioned Secretary Kelly about his role in the President's newly established Opioid Commission. Senator Hassan pressed Secretary Kelly on the goals of the President's Commission, emphasizing the need to "ensure that the rhetoric here is met by real action that reflects the seriousness of this crisis."

In addition, Senator Hassan stressed the importance of forward-thinking cyber programs that engage white hat (ethical) hackers to try to identify potential vulnerabilities and strengthen cyber security. Secretary Kelly acknowledged that, "[Cyber security] is a critically important issue, I mean it goes without saying," and committed to learning more about innovative programs that leverage untapped resources throughout the country.

The Senator also pressed Secretary Kelly on his commitment to bringing law enforcement scrutiny to the visa adjudication process and implementing it across the board for all diplomatic posts that issue visas. Secretary Kelly responded by saying, "Anything we can do overseas to make better decisions about who might come to the United States, for whatever reason, is a good idea, and should be reinforced and we should be constantly looking at even better ways to do that."