The House on Monday unanimously passed several bills aimed at ensuring the Transportation Security Administration boosts its screening of security workers, expands its expedited screening program, and ensures that "regular preventative maintenance" is conducted on airport equipment used to screen passengers and luggage for explosives and other dangerous items.
The bills reflect the latest attempt to reform an agency that has left many angry and frustrated as they try to get through security at airports across the country, and also some recent reports that have said TSA is failing to do enough to keep passengers safe.
In May, for example, the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General reported that TSA is not adequately maintaining screening equipment, including, "Explosives Trace Detection machines, Advanced Imaging Technology machines, Bottled Liquid Scanners, X-ray machines, and walkthrough metal detectors." That problem was uncovered even though TSA has a $1.2 billion maintenance budget.
The inspector general warned that because of shoddy upkeep of equipment, "the safety of airline passengers and aircraft could be jeopardized."
The Keeping Our Travelers Safe and Secure Act, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., would require TSA to put a maintenance schedule in place within 180 days, and would impose penalties for noncompliance.
"The security of our airports and the safety of travelers depend on sophisticated technology, and TSA has to be more aggressive and proactive in ensuring that this technology is regularly maintained and kept fully operational," Rice said. "At a time when people are rightfully concerned about TSA's ability to detect dangerous items, we cannot afford the risk of having to rely on less effective screening measures."
The vote to pass Rice's legislation was 380-0.
Other bills passed Monday were just as unanimous, and were able to pass in voice votes. For example, two bills passed from Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., would require TSA to run tougher background checks on its workers, and require TSA to use technology to expand participation in its PreCheck program to allow for expedited screening of low-risk passengers.