Travel Groups to Congress: Leave Airport Security Funding Alone
The U.S. Travel Association and other travel industry groups are taking aim at a set of bills that threaten funding for both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.
The travel industry has an important message for Congress: Don’t touch the TSA.
With a proposed Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill taking aim at the Transportation Security Administration’s employment base, the U.S. Travel Association sent letters to both the House and the Senate, asking them to find another way to make funding cuts.
In identical letters to the chairs and the ranking members of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security [PDF] and the Senate Appropriations Committee [PDF], U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow stated that cutting TSA staffing by 600 employees was a particularly bad idea, especially in light of recent news that TSA employees had failed a number of internal tests involving the detection of fake explosives and weapons.
While the loss of 600 employees from a staff of 45,000 would be relatively small, Dow emphasized that, for the travel industry’s needs, the number would be going in the wrong direction.
“We, therefore, strongly urge that the Committee revisit its FY16 recommendations and find cost savings in other areas to allow funding for security staff to be kept at current levels rather than reduced by some 600 employees,” Dow stated.
Coalition: Don’t Divert Funds
The issue comes as another bill with the goal of replenishing the highway trust fund has drawn criticism from both U.S. Travel and Airlines for America (A4A) for its attempt to divert funds away from both TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection in order to fund highway repairs. The two travel industry groups, along with a broad coalition of other airline groups, criticized the move in a letter sent last week to top-ranking members [PDF] of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.
In an op-ed featured in The Hill last week, A4A President and CEO Nick Calio took further aim at the bill, which has already passed the Senate, out of concern that it puts further pressure on air passengers while offering little benefit in return.
“Money that is raised from air travelers—which they are told and believe goes towards aviation safety and security—should be used to directly benefit those who are paying into the system,” Calio wrote in the editorial. “Congress’s plan is a money grab that completely ignores the rights of airline passengers, who already pay too much in taxes and fees to the federal government every time they fly.”
A suitcase sealed with Transportation Security Agency inspected notification tape. (iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)