TSA Funding Up in 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act
Although overall appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are down slightly this year from Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) remains a consistent winner in the battle of the budget.
In the FY 2012 consolidated spending act (Public Law 112-074) signed by President Barack Obama last Friday, TSA received about $7.85 billion, up $153 million from 2011. TSA and US Customs and Border Protection, perhaps two of the three most visible DHS agencies along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, both received increases although the total DHS budget dropped to $39.6 billion in base discretionary funding in FY 2012, down about $111 million from last year.
The TSA funding included several hundred million dollars for 250 additional advanced imaging technology (AIT) devices — the whole body imagers that scan air travelers for any contraband concealed on their bodies. The additional funding came from a congressional conference committee that approved TSA plans to move forward with deployment of the AIT machines despite a House vote on June 2 on a spending bill that would have denied TSA the money for the devices.
House Republicans included the restriction in their bill not out of a sense that the devices are too intrusive — an idea championed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) — but rather out of an estimation from Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, that TSA could withstand a cut in funding for the devices while they adjust to fielding and upgrading previously funded devices, which sometimes stood unmanned at US airports in 2011 due to a lack of staff to operate them.
The Senate sought to sustain funding for the AIT devices in a DHS appropriations bill introduced in September, and the Senate view clearly carried the day in conference committee negotiations between the two chambers.
In addition to the AIT devices, TSA received funds for 140 new behavior detection officers, 12 additional multi-modal Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, 20 additional explosives detection canine teams, and 53 air cargo security staffers.
The 2012 consolidated spending law directed TSA to report on its strategy for achieving 100 percent screening of US-bound international air cargo, a requirement set by the Implementing the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act (PL 110-53).
TSA Administrator John Pistole has been emphasizing TSA’s commitment to screening high-risk international air cargo in recent months despite an assurance that the agency would achieve 100 percent screening in the near future. Pistole recently revised his estimates to say TSA would not achieve 100 percent screening of US-bound international cargo for several years. The agency met a deadline to screen 100 percent of domestic air cargo in 2008.
The law further told TSA to produce a five-year strategic investment plan for passenger-screening technology as well as spending plans for checked baggage equipment, checkpoint security technology and air cargo security.
TSA also must improve training and outreach to meet the needs of populations that face unique screening challenges such as some disabled travelers, comply with privacy and civil liberties laws when screening passengers, and review its complaint process.
The consolidated spending law allocated TSA a total budget of $7.85 billion but about 2.3 billion in fees such as the aviation security fee offsets some of that funding.
The base funding of roughly $5.5 billion provided $4.1 billion for screening operations with $543 million specifically funding explosives detection systems. It also funded about $205 million for checkpoint support and $1.1 billion for aviation security direction and enforcement.
Moreover, a major initiative to upgrade the Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing system throughout TSA received about $164 million for the modernization and consolidation of the agency’s credentialing efforts.
TSA also got about $1 billion for transportation security support and intelligence collection activities and another $966 million for the Federal Air Marshal Service.
The spending bill restricted TSA to hiring no more than 46,000 full-time transportation security officers or airport screeners or the part-time equivalent of that number.