TSA says it won’t end screening at smaller airports

Unpaid airport screening agents get bonus during shutdown

The Transportation Security Administration is no longer considering ending security screening at more than 150 small airports, the agency’s chief said Wednesday.

“We are not reducing our presence at low volume airports. In fact, quite the contrary,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told Congress. “I think we need to improve our security profile at smaller airports.”

The proposal to end screening at airports with flights of less than 60 passengers was under TSA consideration as one of several potential cost-cutting approaches, and was first reported by CNN last month. The proposal called for passengers to be screened upon arrival at a larger airport.

But security experts raised concerns that terrorists could exploit the vulnerability to potentially weaponize the passenger planes.

At the time, TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said, “The regulations which established TSA does not require screening below a certain level, so every year is ‘the year’ that TSA will reconsider screening.”

At the hearing, Pekoske noted budget constraints force the agency to most effectively use its resources.

“This all rolls up into what can you afford, and if you have to make some reductions, where would you make them, because the budget is not unlimited,” he said. “So these are very difficult choices that we had to make.”

Pekoske added that TSA has “no plans to reduce screening at any airport in the United States whatsoever.”