The head of the Transportation Security Administration rejected a suggestion today from an Alabama congressman that the agency could cut 30 percent of its officers and still effectively protect airlines from terrorist attacks.
"Could you reduce the workforce of 46,000 screeners and still do the job?" asked U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks.
"No, I don't agree with that. That's a huge number," said TSA Adminstrator John Pistole.
Rogers confronted Pistole in a contentious hearing this morning on Capitol Hill about how TSA is fixing its poor customer service reputation, downsizing its bureaucracy and implementing new programs to speed passenger screening at 450 airports around the country.
Rogers is chairman of the transportation security subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee, and has been a strong critic of the agency's efficiency and effectiveness.
"For most people, you mention TSA and a light bulb goes off and people vent their anger," Rogers said.
But Rogers stops short of calling for the elimination of TSA - an idea that has been floated by some Republicans -- and said he wants the agency to improve its performance and its public reputation. For example, Rogers called for a quicker expansion of the TSA Pre-Check program which gives certain pre-cleared travelers a faster screening process.
"The programs you've started are good . . . but they should have been started earlier and moved along at a more rapid pace," Rogers said.