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TSA Chief Peter Neffenger conceded that many of the screening staff hired to handle this spring’s unprecedented security lines may need to be cut if congress can’t agree on a budget.
The cuts would be part of a larger government shutdown looming on October 1st, when the 2017 fiscal year begins. Vice Admiral Neffenger made his comments at the Airlines for America Industry Summit in Washington D.C. last week.
Long lines started to surface at airport security checkpoints early this spring after an uptick in travel passenger volumes met with with a shortage of funding and security officers. Amid widespread uproar, the agency took drastic steps to secure more funding, hire more workers and convert part time workers to full time in an effort to save the busy summer travel season. To a degree, the effort was successful; security lines across the board grew shorter through the season while passenger discontent largely faded.
Much of that success, however, was based on increased staffing at airport checkpoints, a costly line item for the TSA. On a panel at the Airlines for America Industry Summit (below at 1:09:16), Administrator Neffenger suggested that unless congress is able to approve the agency’s budget to include the expanded workforce, new staff will “all go home on October 1st.”
According to Neffenger, the agency hired around 1,400 new security officers as a function of the summer’s campaign and converted 2000 staff from part time to full time.
On Tuesday, congressional leaders met with the Obama administration to work out a deal for a continuing budget resolution, however the meeting concluded with lawmakers empty handed. According to Rollcall.com, Obama reported “modest” hopes of a resolved budget before the potential shutdown on October 1, while Administrator Neffenger in his comments suggested that the agency was receiving “good signals” and “strong support” from the administration.
Should the government indeed shut down or an expanded budget not be approved for the TSA, passengers may be in for a return of the recordbreaking security lines from earlier this year. A direction from congress is expected within the next two weeks.