APR 0 4 2016

The Honorable Cory Booker
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
60 l South 12th Street
Arlington, VA 20598


Dear Senator Booker:
Thank you for your letter of February 11 , 2016, regarding the Transportation Security
Administration's (TSA) screening operations at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). I
understand your concerns with the security checkpoint wait times the airport has experienced,
and I recognize the vital importance of EWR as an economic driver in the region as well as one
of the busiest airports in the Nation.
I would like to first express my appreciation to you and your colleagues for your support of
TSA's critical mission. Recent attacks overseas underscore the fact that we are in a dynamic and
challenging threat environment-perhaps more so than at any time in recent history. TSA has
committed to meeting this challenge through a renewed focus on the fundamentals of security
and by striking a new balance between security effectiveness and efficiency. In the past few
months, we retrained the entire screening workforce, deployed enhanced screening procedures,
increased aviation worker screenings, and reduced access to TSA Pre"'® lanes for passengers
who are not fully vetted. In short, we are taking necessary steps to make it safe to travel.
Coinciding with stronger security measures, TSA has observed sustained growth in passenger
volume. At Newark, TSA screened 5 percent more passengers and crew members to date in
fiscal year 2016 than during the same period last year, translating to 2,000 more screened per
day. Newark's volume growth is in line with what we have seen nationwide, which is 7 percent
growth over the same time period in passengers and crew members screened, translating to
123,000 more per day.
You are correct that volume growth coupled with stronger security measures resulted in
longer wait times at Newark and other airports across the system. In January 2016, 3.6 percent
of TSA passengers across the country waited 20 minutes or more in queue at the checkpoint, an
increase from January 2015 when only 0.2 percent of all passengers waited in queue that long.
We recognize the challenges this creates for the traveling public at Newark and are exploring
both short- and long-term solutions to address them. With the help of the Administration and ·
Congress, we were able to amend our budget request to halt further reduction of staff - to let
TSA keep the more than 1,600 positions we were slated to lose and to begin adding staff back.
Since the FYI 6 Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed into law in December, we have
been rapidly hiring to our full authorized level. We continue to look closely at staffing
allocations for Newark, and we have directed TSA management at the airport to hire above their
annual staffing allocation for the upcoming summer travel season.


We partnered with the Port Authority and United Airlines to conduct an optimization visit at
Newark from February 22-25, 2016. Several recommendations were put into action, including
sharing of data to ensure that TSA scheduling best aligns with peak travel times, updating
Passenger Screening Canine work hours to ensure best coverage for the airport's peak volume
times, developing an action plan for quick wins to address in-line baggage system concerns, and
making changes to checkpoint passenger flow to create efficiencies.
TSA is substantially increasing Passenger Screening Canine explosives detection operations
at Newark this year as part of a nationwide initiative to cross-train TSA Cargo Canines in the
passenger screening capability. Newark airport started with a Passenger Screening Canine
allocation of four teams last year, and with the conversion of the Cargo Canine teams the
airport, they will have a total of nine teams with passenger screening capability by the end of this
year. By deploying more canine teams at checkpoints, we will be able to provide additional
expedited screening of passengers, which in turn reduces wait times without sacrificing security.
The TSA Federal Security Director will deploy these resources as warranted during regular and
peak travel times throughout the airport.
On the national level, TSA continues to identify ways to gain efficiencies at our checkpoints,
without sacrificing security effectiveness. Continuous innovation at the checkpoint will help
meet the challenges posed by passenger volume growth. Eventually, we will reach the capacity
of the infrastructure, and in some places we already exceed capacity during peak travel periods.
TSA is evaluating the current technologies available and identifying viable solutions, such as
automated bin return systems, which will increase checkpoint efficiency. We are excited for the
opportunity to work with industry partners on technology development and implementation that
strengthens security, increases operational efficiency, and improves the passenger experience.
We look forward to engaging with stakeholders regarding these types of solutions.
Again, thank you for sharing your concerns with me. An identical response is also being sent
to the co-signers of your letter - Senator Robert Menendez, Congressman Albia Sires, and
Congressman Donald M . Payne, Jr. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to
contact me personally or the Office of Legislative Affairs at (571) 227-2717.