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Landrieu Holds Hearing on Airline Security

March 21, 2012

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, today held a hearing on efforts to make our air travel system as convenient and efficient as possible, while maintaining the highest level of security.  Sen. Landrieu stressed the importance of programs to expedite screenings for certain groups, such as airline crews and those who have been pre-screened through the PREprogram, which allows qualified passengers to go through screening without removing shoes, jackets, laptops or liquid containers from their carry-ons. The subcommittee also discussed expediting issuance of visas to promote tourism and business in high-demand countries.

“The tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of the U.S. economy.  In 2010, it represented 2.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and 7.5 million jobs.  International travel to the United States supports 1.2 million jobs alone, and the average overseas visitor spends $4,500 while they’re here.   Travel is a key economic driver for many of our major cities and we all want to see it grow,” Sen. Landrieu said.

“At the same time, we must never forget that planes were used as weapons of mass destruction on 9/11 and Congress created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in response to those horrific attacks and the continuing threat to our nation’s aviation sector.  However, 10 years after TSA was created, the screening process is overly burdensome.  For too long, travelers with low risk profiles have been screened no differently than those with higher-risk profiles in a “one-size-fits-all” system.”

Sen. Landrieu asked TSA Administrator John Pistole why airline pilots are beginning to receive expedited screening, but other members of the flight crew – such as flight attendants – are not. She also complimented TSA for creating the TSA PRE program and asked for an update on its expansion. PRE is now at 11 airports, including Washington Reagan National and Chicago OHare which were added this week.  Administrator Pistole testified that PRE will be at 35 major airports by the end of 2012, including the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

The Subcommittee examined a number of options for promoting travel without sacrificing security, such as expanding the number of PRElocations and eligible users, increasing the number of visa waiver countries, and making the entry process more customer friendly through informational videos and training of Customs and Border Protection officers. 

Sen. Landrieu included $10 million for TSA PRE in the FY 2012 Homeland Security Appropriations Act. This support is part of her ongoing effort to transform TSA by implementing a more passenger-friendly, risk-based approach toward security.

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