Letter to Administrator Pistole - Aviation Security

Letter

By:  Michael Bennet Mark Udall
Date: March 6, 2013
Location: Unknown

Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are requesting that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) quickly replace the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) security scanners that meet congressionally mandated privacy standards at Colorado's regional airports. The TSA removed some scanners last month after they did not meet the new privacy standards, while other scanners that meet the standards are being redeployed at larger, higher-traffic airports.

In a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole, the senators wrote, "We appreciate that TSA is operating under a tight timeline for replacing the problematic scanners in order to address the problem. However, TSA's actions are having a real impact on Colorado passengers and the regional airports working to serve them. Airport administrators worry that the redeployment could result in longer wait times, and undermine the more stringent security standards that TSA is working to achieve through these AIT scanners."

In the FAA Reauthorization bill passed in 2012, Congress required all full-body scanners to be outfitted with privacy software that only displays the generic outline of the human body. However, one company was unable to meet the deadline to install the new software and those scanners were removed from all airports. In order to maintain security standards at larger airports, TSA is redeploying some scanners from regional airports with no timetable to have them replaced.

Udall and Bennet are urging TSA to provide a timeline and implementation plan to these airports and to accommodate them while airport and local officials make the necessary operational adjustments and to reduce any unnecessary financial burdens during the process.

Full text of the letter is below:

March 5, 2013

Dear Administrator Pistole:

We write today regarding the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) removal of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanners from a number of smaller airports in Colorado. Many of these airports have expressed concern about how redeployment of these machines might impact passenger security and airport operating procedures. We urge TSA to address this issue as swiftly as possible while providing a clear timeline for plan implementation and machine replacement.

As you know, in early 2012, Congress enacted legislation establishing certain privacy standards for these scanners. One company producing these machines proved unable to meet these standards. As a result, in order to ensure passenger privacy, TSA is switching to improved scanners, which do include the necessary privacy safeguards. We understand TSA has decided to redeploy some of the machines that meet the privacy standards, in some cases moving them out of smaller airports in order to make them available in larger airports with more traffic.

We appreciate that TSA is operating under a tight timeline for replacing the problematic scanners in order to address the problem. However, TSA's actions are having a real impact on Colorado passengers and the regional airports working to serve them. Airport administrators worry that the redeployment could result in longer wait times, and undermine the more stringent security standards that TSA is working to achieve through these AIT scanners. In addition, certain Colorado airports located in the Rocky Mountains are seeing a spike in travelers due to ski season, making this a particularly difficult time to switch passenger screening equipment.

We urge you to move forward with the replacement of the AIT machines at the affected airports as soon as possible, so that airports in Colorado and around the country receive minimal disruption. And we encourage you to accommodate airports throughout this process, so these changes do not impose any increased financial burden on already overstretched local budgets.

We also ask the agency to release a detailed implementation plan promptly, including a timeline for providing new scanners to affected airports. Regional airports need as much information about the AIT deployment plan going forward as possible, so that they can make operational adjustments.

We thank you for your consideration of our request, and we appreciate the willingness TSA has shown so far to address concerns about this process. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices for further discussion about this matter.