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08 January 2019, 03:51 | Hattie Nash
Erik S Lesser EPA via Sutterstock
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?"
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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