The Transportation Security Administration is proposing to eliminate screening at over 150 small to medium-sized airports, among other cost-saving measures. These cuts could save the agency more than $300 million by 2020.
Among the proposed cuts are a reduction in full-time air marshals, a reduction in the workforce at TSA headquarters, fewer reimbursements to airports for regional services at TSA checkpoints, cuts for benefits for new part-time employees, and a 50% cut in reimbursements to state and local law enforcement agencies for use of their K-9 units. These spending cuts would have to be approved by Congress, who sets TSA’s budget.
The biggest and most controversial proposed cut is the $115 million they would save by eliminating screening at airports where the flights have 60 passengers or less. Under this proposal, passengers with connecting flights would be screened at larger airports, which have more sophisticated security measures, before boarding their next flight.
The document also says reductions in the Federal Air Marshal program would save the agency around $39 million a year and the cuts at TSA HQ would slash more than $26 million. These cuts would come through attrition.
The Air Marshal program has come under fire for their ineffectiveness and intrusion on civil liberties. A series of reports from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s Office and The Government Accountability Office has raised questions about the program’s effectiveness.
The cut in K-9 reimbursement would save the agency more than $20 million and the cut in janitorial services reimbursement would save more than $21 million. The change in part-time benefits would save around $18.5 million. Another $39 million would come through a reduction in unspecified contracts.
NJ Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, House Homeland Security Committee’s transportation panel. Said the proposed cuts “could put at risk the safety of passengers and the security of our transportation systems.”
“The intelligence is very clear that the threat to our transportation system remains real, so I am baffled by this administrations’ endless efforts to cut funding in this area,” Watson Coleman said.