Increasing Lines at TSA Checkpoints Create Security Risks for Airports

Increasing Lines at TSA Checkpoints Create Security Risks for Airports

TSA screener shortage exposes travelers to security risks

Over the weekend passengers at Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Seattle, Wash. were stuck in a security line that extended all the way into the parking garage. Passengers waited nearly two hours to move through the line before being screened by Transportation Security Administration agents at the checkpoint. 

In a House Homeland Security Committee Hearing on Tuesday in Washington D.C., Sec-Tac Airport Manager  Lance Lyttee told Congress that the shortage of TSA agents and screeners at the nation's eighth largest airport is contributing to these long lines and putting the airport and its travelers at risk of becoming "soft targets" in a mass shooter or terrorist attack.

"Lines that stretch through the terminal, past the ticket counters, over the sky bridges and into the packing garages compromise our ability to ensure public safety," Lyttle said. "Yet we see this scenario all too often, even before our summer travel season has begun, including just this last weekend. The ability of the TSA to hurt and retain staff is a major contributor to this challenge."

Lyttle referenced a Bloomberg Law study which found that between 2012 and 2016, the TSA at Sea-Tac Airport hired 858 new screening officers, but lost 772 of them - a 90 percent attrition rate.

Adding insult to injury, Lyttle told Congress that approximately 80 TSA security officers in the Puget Sound region have left for positions that offer higher pay since April 1. 

Lyttle testified that Sea-Tac's top priority is to ensure the swift and reliable processing at screening checkpoints, but staffing shortages have compromised the airport's ability to provide that. Sea-Tac's aging facilities are a factor, but TSA's own inability to retain agents is the "major contributing factor," stating that he had never seen all the screening lanes at the airport open because they had never had the staff to do so.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Executive Editor of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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