Skift Take

A plan to reform the TSA is all well and good, but executing such a far-reaching vision of improving the government agency will require continuity in TSA leadership and a concerted effort from Congress to continue a culture shift in the agency.

As travel industry stakeholders gear up for the Trump administration, U.S. Travel has released a plan to help bring the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) into the future with a combination of common sense reforms and cutting-edge technology.

Whether or not any of these proposed reforms take place, however, is another matter altogether.

U.S. Travel released a plan for aviation security titled Transforming Security at Airports in conjunction with an event featuring lawmakers and industry players in Washington, D.C. The plan proposes that increasing travel in the U.S. could create 880,000 new jobs in the U.S. economy. It also recommends a variety of improvements to TSA operations including the use of more automated technology, more intelligent policies surrounding screening and deploying TSA employees, and ramping up support for TSA Precheck by using third-party vendors to drive membership.

“We can’t afford to wait for the next crisis [before we improve the TSA],” said U.S. Travel CEO Roger Dow. “When TSA fails to keep up with travel demand, travel drops… 880,000 jobs could be created if TSA [fixes] flyer frustrations.”

The most interesting talk at the event surrounded the trouble the TSA has dealing with travel to Cuba. In particular, there are serious security limitations that have lawmakers troubled about the job Cuban authorities are doing providing security for U.S. travelers.

Cuba Concerns

“Everyone wants to go see Cuba, but we cannot go into Cuba with our eyes closed,” said Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), who is chairman of the transportation security subcommittee on the House Committee on Homeland Security. “Air traffic has started there but it’s nowhere near we need it to be. There’s a problem with how the Cuban government hires the workers [and] we don’t know what the Cuban officials do with our credit card info when we get it… as far as screening at the airport goes, we don’t know because it’s not American equipment. We’re ceding all our control to Cuba to tell us how they’re going to keep our aircraft safe.”

Congressional officials said they don’t even have enough information about the Cuban government’s transportation security cooperation to make informed decisions about how the relationship between the two countries can be improved.

“There are cooperative activities going on in Cuba,” said Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.). “There’s a great tourist interest for the U.S. to go to Cuba and certainly it’s in their economic interest… it’s hard to say with any kind of blanket statement whether cooperation has been shown or not.”

During his comments, Rep. Katko also floated the idea that reformed procurement policies could spur innovation in the TSA and create a simpler experience for travelers; he mentioned technology that ties biometric information to ticketing as one potential improvement, possibly doing away with traditional paper ticketing altogether, along with security algorithms that screen travelers’ social media accounts for terror threats automatically before they travel, helping speed up security before travelers even arrive at the airport.

You can read U.S. Travel’s lengthy report on the current state and future of the TSA below.

Download (PDF, 13.61MB)


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Tags: security, tsa

Photo credit: U.S. Travel has released a new plan to improve the TSA, and some Congressional lawmakers are on board. Pictured are PreCheck approved travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

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