A congressional bill that that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) includes a separate amendment aimed at modernizing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), including a provision that would provide for a five-year term for the head of TSA.
The TSA Modernization Act reauthorizes the aviation security agency and includes various reforms, such as a five-year term for the TSA Administrator to ensure leadership stability and to bridge presidential transitions.
Other key provisions of the TSA Modernization Act, which includes various House and Senate authorization bills dealing with the agency, require TSA to establish a third-party program for the testing and verification of security screening technologies. This work is currently done by TSA and other government labs.
The testing and verification program would ensure that screening equipment developed by vendors meets TSA’s operational requirements and mission needs.
The TSA Modernization Act also directs TSA and Customs and Border Protection to consult each other on the deployment of biometric technologies.
CBP already uses fingerprint checks for foreign nationals arriving to the U.S. to verify the connection between individuals and their travel documents. CBP is transforming the arrivals process to include facial recognition checks, which is the technology it is starting to roll out at airports to verify the identities of travelers departing the U.S. on international flights.
TSA has pilot tested fingerprint and facial recognition technologies at some of its airport security checkpoints. The bill directs TSA to use biometric technologies to verify traveler identities, enhance security, and help speed up checkpoint processing.
Another provision in the bill directs TSA to pilot automated exit lane technology at small hub and non-hub airports to ensure that travelers don’t reenter the secure area of airports after departing through an exit lane.
Other provisions would end the practice of putting unvetted travelers through the PreCheck trusted traveler lanes at airport security checkpoints, boost enrollment in PreCheck through the use of private vendors that would help with enrollment, increase the capacity of federal K9 programs for explosives detection in public areas, and increase the level of baseline security at last points of departure airports for travelers heading to the U.S.
The FAA bill was agreed to by Republican and Democratic negotiators in the House and Senate last Saturday night. The House is expected to begin considering the FAA bill on Wednesday and the Senate soon.