Joining Kaine in signing the letter are U.S. Senators Cory Booker, Bob Menendez, Sherrod Brown, Richard Blumenthal, Robert P. Casey, Jr., Maria Cantwell, Mazie K. Hirono, Edward J. Markey, Dick Durbin, Al Franken, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren, Angus S. King, Jr., Ron Wyden, Martin Heinrich, Jeffrey A. Merkley, Barbara Boxer, Bill Nelson, Dianne Feinstein, Debbie Stabenow and Charles E. Schumer.

The Honorable John Hoeven
Chairman
Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.  20510

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Homeland Security
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.  20510

Dear Chairman Hoeven and Ranking Member Shaheen:

As the Subcommittee develops the fiscal year 2017 (FY2017) Homeland Security Appropriations bill, we urge you to support robust funding for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Even while threats to transportation have grown, making TSA’s mission increasingly complex, TSA’s annual budget has gone from $7.688 billion in FY2011 to $7.44 billion in FY2016 – a decrease of $248 million or 3.23 percent over this 5 year period. Tragically, we were reminded all too recently by the attack on the Brussels Metro and airport earlier this year that protecting our airports and surface transportation through substantial security measures is vital to protecting our citizens, and in light of this urge that funding is restored-not reduced.

TSA plays a critical role in ensuring our nation’s security. In the recently passed Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, the Senate included important, bipartisan provisions that will improve the safety, security, and preparedness for TSA and the travelling public. Several of these provisions reflect recommendations from a 2015 report to Congress by the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, and address the “inside threat” of terrorism and the safeguarding of passengers in non-secure or “soft target” areas of airports.

We urge the Committee to include ample funding to support some of the important measures outlined in these provisions, as well as additional airport security enhancements, specifically:

  • We urge increased support for bomb-sniffing canine teams, which detect and deter threats, and Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams. Together, these teams protect and promote confidence in the nation’s transportation systems through targeted deployment of TSA screening and law enforcement. It is critical that we support increased resources to allow for operations outside of checkpoints in non-secure areas. We urge support for doubling the number of VIPR teams from the current 30 to as many as 60, as well as training more bomb-sniffing canines.
  • We support a provision of the FAA bill that would allow existing grant funding to be used for training exercises to enhance preparedness for and response to active shooter incidents at public locations, including airports, mass transit systems and other “soft target” areas. We also support allowing security funding grants such as the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) to be used for airport security, including securing “soft target” areas and for training exercises.
  • We thank you for your support of TSA’s request to reprogram FY2016 funds to fulfill immediate staffing and overtime needs. On May 4, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Johnson announced TSA’s plans to increase staffing levels to help quicken the security process for travelers without compromising safety.  Recent reports indicate that some TSA security lines have stretched for several hours, in extreme cases, causing individuals to miss their flights. Security is absolutely paramount and these long wait times indicate not only a discomfort to our constituents, but more importantly a severe lack of security resources at some of the busiest airports in the country. For this reason, we urge continued funding to ensure TSA has an adequate number of staff and resources to meet the needs of the traveling public.

Thank you for considering increased funding for TSA to implement these provisions that will improve travelling conditions and help protect Americans across the country and visitors using our nation’s transportation systems. We appreciate your efforts and support for transportation security.

Sincerely,