March 24, 2019

U.S. shutdown beginning to affect airports

08 January 2019, 03:51 | Hattie Nash

Erik S Lesser EPA via Sutterstock

A Transportation Security Agency agent checks the identification of travelers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington Va.. Jan. 7 2019

A TSA officer is receiving praise after moving quickly to remove a piece of smoking luggage from a checkpoint area.

Security workers remain on the job at airports even though the Department of Homeland Security is not funded while President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress fight over the shutdown and border security. Thirteen federal departments and agencies have largely closed down operations since December 22 because funding hasn't been approved.

"We need to pay our bills now not later", said TSA worker John Hubert.

One of the questions from Thompson highlights a possibility that could cripple the nation's transportation system: "Does TSA have a contingency plan to address mass callouts or resignations among its workforce?"

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"This TSA line at SeaTac is out of this world".

"It's certainly not built into their budgets right now, but if it came down to it they may look to find the resources to support that sort of thing on a voluntary and temporary basis", Bidwell said.

TSA screened 2.22 million passengers on Sunday, according to a statement posted on the agency's Twitter account, and 99.8 percent of them waited less than 30 minutes in line.

Big airports, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, reported relatively normal wait times, according to TheWSJ.

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So far, TSA is managing the small increase in officers not reporting to work, agency spokesman Michael Bilello said. Bilello tweeted security there "has the staff it needs" and long lines were "due to a high vol of passengers arriving at the airport; many people will be returning to school/work tomorrow; backside of holiday travel & historically busy".

TSA is taking multiple steps to ensure it can continue to perform screening. "They may have to call in the National Guard". Agency officials are concerned Friday's payroll deadline - when screeners will miss their first paychecks - could be a "tipping point". "Now we're talking about a completely different environment", he said.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, asked for specifics about how many officers have called out of work since funding for TSA and other agencies expired in December, and voiced concern that "if wait times and public pressure increase, some TSA managers may try to manage the effects of the shutdown in ways that are detrimental to security".

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