WASHINGTON – Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske Wednesday pushed Congress for funding to improve airport security by adding new X-ray measurement technology to better detect explosive devices.
“To invest in the CT (computed tomography) technology requires funding above what TSA currently has,” Pekoske told the House Homeland Security Committee.
Computed tomography uses X-ray measurement to create internal images of scanned objects. The 3D technology makes it easier for TSA agents to detect contraband items and explosive devices.
It is only used in Phoenix and Boston airports.
Pekoske said the $1.28 billion in aviation security fees pulled to fund deficit reduction “would go a long way” in buying more of the X-ray technology to enhance airport security.
Massachusetts Rep William Keating, a Democrat, repeatedly questioned Pekoske on whether President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal provided enough funds to keep Americans safe.
“Additional investments would make travelers, whether they’re Americans or people visiting our country, safer,” Pekoske said after first answering several times that he supports Trump’s budget plan.
In a classified briefing before the hearing, Pekoske and other to DHS officials shared specific vulnerabilities of the aviation security with the committee.
“Quite frankly, I found that briefing disturbing, ” Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said.
Committee members said they were concerned about the low morale among transportation security officers.
“TSA must address the workforce challenges that have plagued it since its creation.” Mississippi Rep Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the committee, said. “TSA has consistently struggled with low morale across the workforce, ranking 303 out of 305 government agencies in 2016.”
Pekoske said employee morale is a priority and he plans to address it by investing in leadership trainings for TSA employees.
“As morale improves, security effectiveness improves at the same time,” Pekoske said.
Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., questioned Pekoske’s ability to publicly oppose the Trump administration’s policies that are “maybe not best for the national security, domestic security of our country” and asked if he was required to take a loyalty oath to the president.
Pekoske said he did not take a loyalty oath, adding that his job is to advocate for the “right tools and the right number of people and the right training” for TSA employees to be effective in protecting the U.S.