The U.S. government hopes to expedite the hiring of more than 500 security screeners to stem the long wait times expected at airports this summer.
The Transportation Security Administration wants to get those new workers in place as soon as possible, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who oversees the agency, said in a press conference at Washington Reagan National airport Friday.
In addition to the speedier hiring, the agency is increasing the use of overtime to boost the ranks of screeners, trying to reduce the number of carry-on luggage passengers carry and encouraging airports to provide workers to help provide assistance to screeners, Johnson said.
“We have developed a plan, an aggressive plan, to deal with it,” Johnson said.
Thousands of passengers have missed flights as the TSA has struggled to handle increased numbers of travelers. At the same time, the agency has had to slow the time it takes to vet each passenger in reaction to critical reports on its screeners last year.
Staffing authorized by Congress for the TSA, which operates security at airports across the country, has fallen from 47,147 full-time employees in 2013 to 42,525 this year, a decrease of almost 10 percent, according to agency data. At the same time, the volume of passengers rose from 643 million to an estimated 740 million this year, or 15 percent, according to TSA.
Amid complaints over long lines this year, Congress approved the hiring of 768 new TSA screeners. The agency is rushing to train at least 500 of them between Memorial Day and July 4, according to Johnson.
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