The U.S. Transportation Security Administration intends to test a new trusted-traveler program this fall that would expedite airport screening for frequent travelers, TSA Administrator John Pistole this week told a congressional committee.
"We hope to be piloting some initiatives starting this fall in select airports with U.S. carriers," Pistole said during a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. "We do want to make sure to manage expectations with the traveling public, and it's a complex issue, so I basically want to under-promise and over-deliver that we will be doing some things that some passengers will see as early as this fall."
TSA intends to work with U.S. airlines to collect information on those travelers "willing to share information about themselves," Pistole said. That would help TSA "make informed judgments."
Pistole in March told Congress that the "one-size-fits-all approach" currently used for airport security is not "efficient or beneficial for the traveling public" and that he had "several working groups" exploring program options.
This week, he said, "We want to spend as much time as possible on those who we don't know much about, and the least of amount" on people who, for example, have flown more than 100,000 miles annually for the past 20 years. "The challenge, as we know, becomes the practical application of that."
The U.S. Travel Association issued a statement supporting TSA's efforts to create a program "similar to trusted-traveler programs operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection," including Global Entry for frequent international travelers.
During its legislative summit this week, the Global Business Travel Association "encouraged attendees to ask Congress to support key business travel initiatives, including ... implementing a trusted traveler program," according to a statement.
Getting 'smarter' on pat-downs
At the hearing, senators scolded TSA for what some deem as overly invasive or otherwise unnecessary pat-downs at airport security checkpoints.
"A lot of people in America think you are going overboard and you are missing the boat on terrorism because you are doing these invasive searches on 6-year-old girls," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
"You said that you see flying as a privilege. There are those of us that see it otherwise, the Supreme Court included. I think I feel less safe because you are doing these invasive exams on a 6-year-old, and it makes me think that you are clueless, that you think she is going to attack our country and that you are not doing your research on the people who would attack our country. It absolutely must involve a risk assessment for those of us who are traveling."
In response, Pistole said, "Unfortunately, we know that terrorists have used children under 12 years old as suicide bombers. We also know that two grandparents had chosen to be suicide bombers. It's informed by the intelligence. But I agree with you, we need to be smarter in how we go about doing things and we need to use more common sense."
This report originally appeared in sister publication Business Travel News