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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, my amendment says that no funds in the underlying bill may be used to restrict access to the Screening Partnership Program, SPP program, of the Transportation Security Administration, TSA.

SPP is a pilot program that the Federal Government is using to test privatization at certain airports. Currently, there are 16 airports that participate in this program, and a 17th airport has just recently been approved. These airports have received overwhelmingly positive reports and feedback from passengers as well as security personnel alike.

In fact, last night I was talking with my good friend, Congressman Cynthia Lummis from Wyoming, and she was telling me about the success of the Jackson Hole Airport in Jackson, Wyoming, which is part of the SPP program. Almost three-fourths of all travelers in the State of Wyoming fly in and out of Jackson Hole, and Congresswoman Lummis said that the screening process there is top of the line. They've not had any problems whatsoever.

You see, airports can still be effective and do their due diligence without the Federal Government directing, dictating how their security should be set up.

I understand that the language in the underlying bill attempts to make access to SPP easier. However, the purpose of my amendment is to ensure that we don't ever use funds to restrict participation in the program, and here's an example of why.

Kansas City Airport is another airport that has been testing out privatization. They've been part of SPP for a few years and have received stellar customer reviews, with no reported problems.

Recently, though, the private contractor handling the security reapplied for the SPP program, but the administration denied their application. Even worse, the administration selected a different bidder that has no experience whatsoever in airport security. I don't understand this. This makes no sense, and it's a perfect example of how the administration will shut out good private contractors in order to ensure a lasting place in the Federal Government for the TSA.

Mr. Chairman, the SPP program will not only spur our economy by creating good jobs in the private sector, but it will also relieve some of the burdensome costs that the TSA imposes on our Federal budget. I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense amendment so that we can take privatization of the TSA one step further.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. BROUN of Georgia. My amendment eliminates all funding for the behavior detection officers and for the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques program, better known as the SPOT program.

The SPOT program trains TSA behavior detection officers to monitor regular airline passengers for stress, fear, or deceptive behavior. The officers then are supposed to put any passengers who exhibit terrorist-like behaviors, such as stress, fear, and deceptive behavior, through a more rigorous screening process.

This seems to be reasonable, but actually, Mr. Chairman, it is laughable. These agents go through very minimal training, and they are hardly qualified to delve into the psychology of a possible terrorist.

This program was modeled after a very effective one used in Israel, but their agents go through a very extensive program of preparation for this line of work. Plus, they focus on a handful of airports in Israel as opposed to the hundreds that we have to worry about here in the United States. Moreover, almost any passenger having a bad day could be deemed a terrorist under the list of emotions that the agents are supposed to take note of. We've all stood in line and have seen the awkward, invasive pat-downs that many innocent passengers have to endure. Many of us have seen the crying children or elderly grandmas who suffer through these embarrassing protocols as we try to get through security. It has got to stop.

I would also like to point out that the SPOT program costs us a quarter of a billion dollars to operate annually, and it will require more than $1.2 billion over the next 5 years. We don't have that kind of money to spend on a program that just simply does not work. Believe me, it doesn't work.

The Government Accountability Office has found that 17 known terrorists, all who are on the No Fly List, have been able to board airplanes over 24 different times from eight different SPOT-certified airports. There are 17 terrorists on the No Fly List who have boarded airplanes at least 24 times at eight different SPOT-certified airports. In fact, the GAO also found that not one terrorist--not one--has been caught by the SPOT program. The program has not been scientifically validated anyway.

Mr. Chairman, that alone is enough to convince me that the SPOT program is a waste of our time, a waste of our money, and is flat out not working. So let's get rid of it and, instead, invest our resources in intelligence and in technologies that help us catch terrorists before they ever step foot inside an airport in the first place.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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