BALANCING SECURITY AND convenience, proposed legislation would expand the TSA PreCheck program that allows pre-cleared air travelers to pass through airport security more quickly. The U.S. Travel Association is endorsing the bill, saying it will reduce wait times and stress on Transportation Security Administration personnel.
The Secure Traveler Act, sponsored by U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan) who serve on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the TSA, would expand enrollment in TSA PreCheck for individuals who have passed extensive background checks, like federal employees holding an active security clearance and law enforcement officers.
“My Secure Traveler Act would allow more people who are already serving in positions of public trust to more easily enroll in TSA PreCheck,” said Thune. “It would free up resources that could be used on other travelers and help cut down on long airport security lines, which are potentially vulnerable targets for those wishing to cause harm. If we can move passengers through TSA checkpoints faster, in an effective and secure way, the travel experience will be better and less stressful, and with shorter lines, it will be safer, too.”
USTA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Barnes shared that assessment of the bill.
“Those serving in positions of public trust have already undergone a stringent vetting process. Eliminating a duplicative background check for these individuals will facilitate Precheck enrollment, helping to reduce wait times and alleviating pressure on an already stretched-thin TSA workforce,” Barnes said. “The expedited screening process requires fewer officers and allows the agency to focus resources on travelers who have not been vetted. Security is therefore the main beneficiary of growing Precheck.”
PreCheck applicants under the proposed act would still be subject to other program requirements, including paying all applicable fees, and participants would still pass through airport security. Active duty military are already enrolled in PreCheck, and DOD civilians are currently able to opt-in for the program.
Under the act the TSA administrator would create a process to verify applicants’ active security clearance in lieu of the background check. A process also would be put in place for expediting the enrollment of law enforcement officers. PreCheck application costs would remain at $85 for five years, and applicants would also qualify for Custom and Border Protection’s Global Entry program at $100 for five years.
The TSA administrator and the CBP commissioner would consult with the U.S. attorney general, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau and other appropriate departments on a report on the feasibility of expanding the PreCheck program created by this act to other trusted traveler programs, such as Global Entry.
Other legislation under consideration by Congress that would benefit the travel industry includes a bill to change the name of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership. In January the U.S. travel industry created more than 33,000 jobs the largest monthly gain since February 2016, according to USTA.