tv TSA Administrator Others Testifies Before Oversight Reform Committee CSPAN July 1, 2019 12:50am-3:14am EDT
the amount of journalism they are doing is zero. they're not going to city hall or school board meetings or covering the pleasant -- the president. they are focused on content and monetizing that content. the question isn't whether or vibrantant a strong and journalism industry, the question is how to get there and should we do it with an antitrust exemption? we tried that in the 1970's when newspapers were last threatened by a new medium, the broadcast era, and it didn't work. >> watch monday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span two. >> on tuesday, a tsa administrator and government watchdog officials testified in front of the house oversight and reform committee about over abilities of the agency. topics included border conditions in humanitarian
conditions of migrant children at housing facilities. this is two hours and 20 minutes. >> the committee will come to order. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare recess of the committee at any time. the full committee during convening to identify, resolve and present vulnerabilities on tsa's security operations. i now recognize myself for five minutes to give an opening statement.
today, nearly 20 years since the terrible attacks of september 11, 2001, we are holding this hearing to examine why urgent warnings from independent auditors about security vulnerabilities at the transportation and security administration have been languishing for years without being resolved. in 2016, i led a bipartisan group of members in asking the government accountability office to examine tsa's covert testing program. this past april, gao issued the declassified results of its work. unfortunately, gao confirmed many of our worst fears. according to gao, nine security vulnerabilities were identified
through covert tests since 2016, but i quote, as of september, 2018 none had been formally resolved, end of quote. not one over the past four years. gao also found that tsa was, and i quote, not using a risk informed approach, end of quote, to its covert tests. as a result, gao warned that tsa has only limited assurance that it is, quote, targeting the most likely threats. unfortunately, this is part of a larger trend. in addition to failing to implement gao's recommendation, tsa has also failed to address warnings from the inspector general.
as of this month, 37 recommendations made by the inspector general from 12 reports on aviation security remain open and unfulfilled. several of those are also many-years-old. i want to thank administrator pekoske for being here. and i support some of the positive steps he is taking, but we need to know why these long-standing vulnerabilities are not being adequately addressed. i thank the witnesses from gao and the inspector general's office for being here and for keeping the focus squarely on these dangers to the flying public.
today we will also examine why the trump administration instead of focusing all of their resources on trying to resolve these vulnerabilities is actually gravitating them in front of a weakening aviation security by taking tsa staff out of our nation's airports and diverting them to the southern border. earlier this year, the trump administration submitted the 2020 budget request to tsa, for tsa. in that request, the administration warned, and i quote, tsa continues to experience airline passenger volume growth at airport checkpoints nationwide. as a result, the trump administration says it needs 700 more screeners at tsa. and it is asking for more
funding to hire these screeners, yet at the same time the administration is diverting tsa employees away from their primary responsibilities and sending them to the southern border. we saw several press reports about this a few weeks ago. so the committee sent a letter to tsa to request the exact numbers and locations of the tsa officials who are being diverted. on friday, tsa sent a response to the committee with new information showing the extent of these diversions. according to tsa, they have already diverted nearly 200 employees from airports and headquarters to the southern border, including transportation and security officers, supervisors, and inspectors, as well as an additional 172
federal air marshals. the employees are drawn from more than 50 airports across the country, ranging from small, regional airports to largest, busiest airports in the nation. but this is apparently just the beginning. according to the letter on friday, tsa has already approved an additional 294 employees to divert to the southern border. let me put this quite starkly. on one hand, tsa has dozens of security vulnerabilities that languished for years, but the trump administration is asking congress for 700 more tsa screeners to handle huge increases in air travel. yet on the other hand, the trump administration is taking more than 350 of these critical tsa
employees, diverting them away from their primary responsibilities, that is securing our nation's airways, and sending them to the southern border. and more may be sent. the administration's actions are not helping aviation security, they're harming it. in fact, in their letter to the committee on friday, tsa admitted that there is, and i quote, a potential increased risk to in-flight security, end of quote. i ask unanimous consent this letter be part of the hearing record. without objection, so ordered. and at this point it seems clear that congress needs to step in to ensure that tsa finally addresses the security vulnerabilities and to prevent additional airport workers from being diverted from their primary roles. today, with chairman thompson of
the homeland security committee, i am introducing the covert testing and risk mitigation improvement act, which would establish standards for covert testing and require t.s.a. to track and report its progress in resolving vulnerabilities as part of its annual budget submission to congress. i look forward to working closely with all of my colleagues to move this legislation as quickly as possible. closely with all of my colleagues to move this legislation as quickly as possible. with that, i now yield to distinguished member ranking member mr. jordan. >> thank you. chairman asked why the administration is sending tsa personnel to the border? why are they sending tsa personnel to the border? because there's a crisis.
just a few months ago in one drug seizer, enough fentanyl to kill 150 million americans. he is asking why we're sending people down? because it is a crisis. what's the democrats' response? speaker of the house says walls are immoral, abolish i.c.e., and supplemental waiting of six weeks to address the crisis. that's the problem. criticize the administration for trying to do anything and everything they can to deal with the humanitarian crisis on the border. give me a break. mr. chairman, tsa has an important mission to keep americans safe, and airports in the air. we rely tsa to be one step ahead of those that want to do harm. however, we learned as you said earlier from gao and inspector general that tsa can improve, how to evaluate its own security vulnerabilities. i look forward to hearing from administrator pekoske about how tsa can use the work of gao and the inspector general to better secure our country. aviation security is just one
part of securing our homeland. the key part is where i started, border security. i want to extend my appreciation to men and women of tsa, and all of the dhs components who have volunteered to go to the border and help address the crisis. there's no other word for it. the crisis. several weeks ago, acting secretary testified to senate judiciary committee, quote, identified almost 4800 migrants this year presenting as family units that were determined to be fraudulent. he testified that they uncovered -- when we talk about humanitarian crisis, think about this, uncovered child recycling rings, innocent children used multiple times to help different adults gain illegal entry into the country and be released. he also mentioned an example of custom and border patrol officials speaking to a man that confessed to not being the father of the child he had in his custody.
he told officials he paid the mother $80 to take her child so he could gain entry, be released into the country, because he knew under u.s. law, he would be released into the interior of the united states in 20 days. but for six weeks, there has been a supplemental appropriations bill sitting there that the democrats won't pass. that child was six months old. acting secretary also said in 40 days prior to his testimony 60,000 children entered dhs custody. and we're going to criticize the administration for trying to get as many people there as we can to help with this crisis? i want to commend my colleagues from texas, mr. cloud, mr. roy, for taking a leadership role and highlighting the emergency on the border. we must get the crisis at the border under control. but it seems to me my colleagues in the majority of preoccupied criticizing the president, criticizing the administration.
too preoccupied with trying to decide whether to impeach or not to focus on the problem. maybe we should focus on the problem, forget about the personalities, and help these kids, help this situation. i urge my colleagues today to do whatever we can, stand up for strong border security so we can bring an end to as i have said now several times, what everyone in this country understands is a crisis. i yield back. >> thank you very much. now i would like to welcome our witnesses. mr. charles johnson junior is managing director for homeland security and issues at the government accountability office. mr. donald bumgardner is the deputy assistant inspector general for audits at the u.s. department of homeland security. and the honorable david pekoske is the administrator of the
transportation and security administration. if all of you would please rise and raise your right hand. i will swear you in. let the record show the witnesses answered in the affirmative. thank you, you may be seated. the microphones are very sensitive. so please speak directly into them. make sure they're on when you are speaking, of course. and without objection, your written statement will be made a part of the record. with that, mr. johnson, you are now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. chairman cummings, ranking member jordan, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to address gao's findings from its april, 2019 report on tsa's covert testing program. my statement today will cover
three areas. the extent to which tsa's covert tests are risk informed, produced quality information, and have been used to address security vulnerabilities. in addition, i will provide an update on the actions tsa has taken in response to our recommendations. before i address these areas, it is important to note that threats to aviation security persist and continue to evolve. for example, the intelligence community has noted that terrorist organizations now have capabilities to plant explosives in personal electronic devices such as laptops. so why is risk informed approach important? a risk informed approach not only helps decision makers identify and evaluate the threats that exist but also to develop mitigation plans. tsa uses its covert tests as a means to do so. there are two units within tsa that undertake this effort to do covert testing. the inspections office which
looks at the wide spectrum of security vulnerability associated with the security system and the office or security operations office which focuses on the screener performance in terms of standard operating procedures they established in undertaking checked baggage and check point screening. as such, these tests based on identified or potential risk. with respect to whether the covert tests are risk informed, good news. tsa has taken steps to improve this area. specifically the inspections office redesigned covert tests in 2016 to be more risk informed and quantitative. and has taken additional steps to document its rationale for selecting covert tests. additionally, the security operations office redesigned covert tests to address prior deficiencies that have been identified by ourselves and the inspector general, and more formally incorporated risk into
the process, particularly use of intelligence reporting. with respect to tsa's covert test producing quality information, not so good news. while tsa's inspection office has redesigned its process to produce quality information, the security operations unit has not been able to ensure quality of its tests and covertness of its tests in particular. particularly those performed by tsa personnel at local airports. as such, we recommended that tsa assess its security operations office covert testing process, to identify opportunities to improve qualities of its tests and as i mentioned particularly consistency and undertaking the tests as well as covertness of the tests. we believe this will tsa improve quality of test results, thereby enhancing tsa's ability to address vulnerabilities. good news. tsa agreed with our recommendation, and it's estimated they will complete
this recommendation, implement it within a month from now, sometime by next month. with respect to tsa' use of covert test results to identify vulnerabilities, also not so good news. we found that although tsa established a security vulnerability management process in 2015 to review and address security threats, this process in itself had not resolved any of the nine vulnerabilities submitted to the process by the inspections office. according to tsa, this process was set up to ensure the cooperation of various tso program offices that had expertise that could assist in addressing vulnerabilities. among other things, we noted in the report a lack of established time frames and milestones to achieve this, particularly for the office to be assigned the responsibility and to mitigate identified threats, has made it more difficult for tsa to effectively use this process to address those vulnerabilities. as such, we recommended that tsa establish time frames and milestones within steps for
security vulnerabilities management process, and establish procedures for monitoring progress. the good news is tsa acted and revised the process to meet intent of the recommendations. overall, although tsa has taken some steps to improve its covert testing program and to address two of the nine recommendations, or actually four of them, two of them we have closed as implemented, we are in process of looking at the information, there are five that remain to be addressed. we believe sustained management attention will be needed to ensure continued progress toward identified and mitigating security vulnerabilities. this is vital to ensuring the safety of our aviation security system. in closing, i would like to personally thank the staff that worked on the review and this committee for the opportunity to testify today on our findings. at this point i am happy to answer any questions you may have. >> thank you very much. mr. bumgardner. >> chairman cummings, ranking
member jordan, members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here today to discuss our work on tsa security vulnerabilities and persistent challenges. tsa has a vital but extremely difficult mission to protect the nation's transportation's system and ensure freedom of movement for people in commerce. every day security officers at about 450 airports screen approximately two million passengers, 5.5 million carry on items, and 1.4 million checked bags. this responsibility is complicated by the constantly evolving threat of adversaries willing to use any means to cause harm and destruction. missing one threat can have potential catastrophic consequences. in the past we shared concerns about vulnerabilities in tsa operations while also acknowledging tsa's challenges in areas of improvement. our more recent work continues to show that tsa needs to strengthen its efforts to address persistent problems. since 2014 we have audited and inspected various security
related aspects of tsa, including passenger and baggage screening operations, precheck, the federal air marshall service, and i.t. systems. these resulted in being issued 24 reports to tsa with 138 recommendations designed to reduce security vulnerabilities in the aviation transportation system. for example, these covert testing continues to reveal persistent, troubling problems. since inception, we conducted thousands of covert tests. we assessed through covert testing checked baggage screening, passenger screening at check points, and airport access controls. our findings and conclusions from these tests have been consistent with those of tsa's internal testing in these areas. because covert test results are classified, they cannot be discussed here today, but we provided the department, tsa,
and our appropriate congressional committees with our classified reports. our covert testing has identified vulnerabilities related to people, processes and procedures, and technology, specifically. people often contribute to weaknesses and security operations due to complacency, or failing to think critically. tsa processes and procedures are vague or open to interpretation, which results in security gaps, and technological limitations sometimes contributed to security weaknesses, even though tsa asserts first priority is to improve security and safeguard the transportation system. reducing these vulnerabilities is critical to ensuring threat objects aren't carried on board aircraft and unauthorized individuals who want to cause harm can't gain access to the airport secure areas. another focus of our work relates to tsa's precheck initiative.
beginning in 2012, tsa increased the use of precheck, allowing expedited screening for nearly half of the flying public. in 2014 we concluded that tsa needed to modify prechecked vetting and screening processes and improve prechecked communication and coordination. we made 22 recommendations in reports, and tsa has taken sufficient action to close 17 of those recommendations. although tsa has taken steps to implement many of our security-related recommendations, it has not fully implemented all of them. currently 39 of the recommendations remain open. of the 39, 17 recommendations have been open since fiscal year 2017 or earlier. these 17 older recommendations generally relate to testing of screening equipment, technological advancements, precheck vetting and screening operations, developing and implementing a cross cutting
risk-based strategy, and implementing a formal budget process that uses risk to inform resource allocation. finally, we recognize and are encouraged by tsa's steps toward compliance with our recent recommendations. with a sustained commitment to addressing known vulnerabilities, the agency risks compromising the safety of the nation's transportation systems. we will continue to assess tsa's performance, identify vulnerabilities, and areas for improvement, and make recommendations that enable tsa to become more efficient and effective in safeguarding our transportation system. mr. chairman, this concludes my testimony. i am happy to answer any questions you or other members of the committee may have. >> thank you very much. >> chairman cummings, ranking member jordan, and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss how tsa identifies, resolves, and prevents vulnerabilities within our security operations.
i appreciate the oversight and support you provide tsa and the constructive, productive relationships tsa has with the inspector general and the government accountability office. i am very proud of the 63,000 dedicated men and women i work alongside at tsa. they serve the public with integrity, respect, and commitment. like this committee, the esteemed colleagues sitting next to me and the entire tsa team, we share the same goal. securing our transportation systems against the current threats that we face. when i appeared before this committee in september last year, i expressed how important it is for tsa to be an agile organization. one that can quickly adapt to changing threats, but also one that learns from mistakes and avoids repeating them. overall, tsa has undertaken significant efforts to address the ig and gao recommendations as quickly as possible. we have already submitted to gao requests for closure of four of
nine recommendations included in its december 2018 audit report on covert testing. and we have closed the ig issued recommendations since 2014. for the remainder, i am committed to getting them closed as soon as possible. the ig audits in recent years identified vulnerabilities pertaining to screener performance, equipment, and procedures. we have progressed in addressing those recommendations by investing in enhanced training and retention programs for front line personnel, by simplifying unnecessarily, ask procedural guidance, and revising screen detection, accelerating procurement of more effective screening equipment. in the last two years, we have revamped the federal air marshall service's concept of operations to better line the critical in flight law enforcement capability against risk. we're actively working to ensure only trusted travelers access
precheck lanes for the ig's recommendation and the mandates set forth in the tsa modernization act of 2018. additionally in the past year, tsa has instituted key restructuring changes to improve risk capabilities, covert testing program, and the ability to address vulnerabilities in a timely manner. tsa aligned its systemwide covert testing programs under one program office, consolidating covert testing programs under that office will drive rigor and consistency over all of the agency's covert testing efforts. tsa consolidated all operational risk analysis capabilities which were previously housed in disparate places under a single responsible office. this change critical to ensuring consistent cross cutting operational risk methodology that can inform larger agency processes, and the prioritization of budget resources. we also established the security vulnerability management process, or svmp, to track and
manage security vulnerabilities identified by external and internal sources and agency mitigation efforts. in response to gao, tsa improved svmp governance by strengthening oversight and milestones for tracking and mitigating vulnerabilities. to ensure we are closing vulnerabilities in a timely fashion, i will hold quarterly risk meetings. these meetings also help inform tsa's covert testing plans, as well as our planning and budgeting processes. timely closure of recommendations is an area i will continue to focus on. i anticipate tsa will request closure for nearly all recommendations from fiscal 2017 and earlier by end of the year. many of the challenges tsa faces requires a collaborative process to reach the goal we all share of identifying and closing vulnerabilities. i will continue to work closely with the ig, the gao, and the congress to assist the agency in continued development of solutions to the challenges that we face. i am grateful for the opportunity to serve, and mr.
chairman, i look forward to your questions. thank you, sir. >> thank you very much. i yield myself five minutes for questions. administrator pekoske, mr. bumgardner, mr. johnson, again, i want to thank you all for being here this morning. the office of inspector general and the government accountability office have both identified critical vulnerabilities in our aviation security system that have remained unresolved, and in some cases for years. mr. johnson, the report the gao issued dispatched, or warns, and i quote, it is important that tsa make timely progress on formal mitigation solutions, because in some cases inspection
findings represent systemwide vulnerabilities to commercial aviation that could result in potentially very serious consequences for tsa and the traveling public, end of quote. is that accurate? >> yes, it is, congressman. >> yes, it is, congressman. >> similarly, mr. bumgardner, you title a section of your written testimony, covert testing continues to reveal persistent and troubling problems, end of quote. then you go on to say that reducing these vulnerabilities is critical to ensuring threat objects are not carried on board aircraft, unauthorized individuals that want to cause harm cannot gain access to airports' secure areas.
such actions do cause catastrophic damage resulting in loss of life and property. is that right? >> yes, mr. chairman. >> so to me these statements are like flashing red lights. and here's the key question. in your opinion why are the vulnerabilities that could cause catastrophic damage or potentially serious consequences languishing at tsa without being resolved. we need more resources or
personnel or new processes or procedures, or new sense of urgency. any of you, mr. johnson. >> thank you, mr. chairman. one of the things we noted is that it often took up to somewhere from three, four, seven months for even vulnerabilities to be assigned to someone to take a look at to mitigate. then they languish in the system for up to in some cases over a year to over three years. part of the thing that needs to be done is that security vulnerability management process the administration mentioned needs better controls in place to ensure there are timelines set, milestones, that there is check in to make sure progress is being made. they were simply assigned there and lack of progress is made. as i mention, none of the nine vulnerabilities identified by the inspections office have been resolved through that process. there was one closed, but it was outside that process. >> and i guess you would term that organization, procedures and sense of urgency, is that a fair statement? >> it is a fair statement, but it is more so the need to have sustained management attention towards these issues, and as the administrator mentioned, his quarterly meetings and check-ins would help in that area.
>> mr. bumgardner, did you want to say something? >> i would agree with mr. johnson on the technology development. it does take time. there's been some changes in priorities and often times we find there's insufficient evidence to support changes that we recommended. >> what do you mean by that? >> well, if we ask for results oriented changes, we often times will not get the sufficient response from the agency that would close the recommendation. and all of this is happening, you know, with the tso issues and concerns we have with retention and the training and hiring of tso officers, with an ever increasing air travel system which mr. pekoske mentioned in his statement is scheduled to be very high this summer. >> mr. pekoske, i do from my
days with the coast guard, people don't know, used to be the subcommittee chairman in transportation and coast guard, you were in the coast guard, so i appreciate your leadership. you have been an outstanding leader. and i appreciate that you're making changes in the agency's approach in an effort to resolve these vulnerabilities. i hope that through continued oversight we will see many of those vulnerabilities fully addressed. but i want to know the focus you're bringing to closing these vulnerabilities and improving covert testing processes will
not waiver if you leave the agency. and what kind of assurances can we have of that? >> mr. chairman, thank you for your comments, and sir, i am in a five year term as tsa administrator, so i have no intention of leaving the agency. intend to fully serve out my term, i appreciate congress' support. sir, one of the other things that's important to consider is that it is critical that we have systemic changes, systemic adjustments so we don't repeat what we heard from the ig and gao. to do that as you know, i published a tsa strategy with a lot of input from my tsa work force and from stakeholders. following that, published administrator's intent. these are designed to lay ground work in place to make some structural changes i spoke of in my opening statement. so to hit your key areas in terms of what we might need, yes, resources. we need a significant investment of technology. we now have a capital investment plan for tsa that lays out the technology requirements over the entire future years, homeland security plan.
structural plan changes, we are moving covert testing to one office. that makes eminent good sense. need to have one place that focuses on it. i can assure you we are going to do more covert testing. we already have, over the course of time. repeatable koefrlt testing. see if we make a change, do another covert test, how has the change been. has it had the effect we think. the other is process. i think the process one is critical. this requires senior leader focus all the time. that's why i want to have at the administrator level quarterly meetings to look at what's the risk this quarter. has it changed from what we saw in the past. and secondly, how are we allocating testing resources and internal resources to address vulnerabilities that have been identified. >> i'm going to close by saying this. we, my democratic colleagues and i are joining in introducing the covert testing and risk mitigation improvement act this morning.
this bill, gentlemen, which is also co-sponsored by chairman thompson, chairman of homeland security committee, would do two major things. codify procedures for covert testing and vulnerability mitigation recommended by gao, and two, require tsa to track and report its progress in resolving security vulnerabilities identified through these covert tests as part of its annual budget submission. we need a laser focus on closing security gaps which our enemies could attack us. my legislation is intended to direct attention of tsa and congress to this critical task, and hopefully this will be helpful. with that, i now yield mr. heinz five minutes for questions.
>> thank you, mr. chairman. so the title of this hearing today is identifying, resolving and preventing vulnerabilities in tsa security operations. that's a worthy title. comes with a lot of responsibility. there's a lot of weight in that title. overall though i must confess it is a bit concerning to me. i wonder, for example, if my democrat friends would be concerned if at the tsa we had no security whatsoever and anyone was able to walk on a plane, if we didn't know who they were, what their intentions were, to go through tsa without any security check on get on board, of course they would not want that because we all want aviation safety. and yet that is exactly what's happening on our southern border right now.
we have people coming across our border, we don't know who they are, what their intentions are, what their plans are, but we do know there have been thousands of crimes committed, including murder and rape and a host of other things. we know there have been tons of drugs coming across the southern border, yet we have little to no security there whatsoever. i was there myself a few weeks ago and was stunned at what's happening on the southern border is happening. it is inexcusable to me. what's happening on the southern border is taking place here in the united states, people are freely coming across here, contraband, freely coming across the border. criminals freely coming across our border. why are we not having a hearing today on identifying, resolving and preventing vulnerabilities within our southern border security operations? and yet the concern is aviation
because we all fly. we want to be safe in the air. but does that mean we don't want to be safe in our country? mr. pekoske, would you agree with me that being so concerned about airport security but concerned about security on our southern border just does not add up? >> sir, we need to be concerned with both and, like you, i was just in the southern border about four weeks ago. saw the situation there. it is dire. and it is a crisis and we need to place focus on it. the chairman mentioned in his opening remarks the assignment of tsa volunteers to the southern border. as are other components of dhs providing volunteers. this is a crisis, and we need to address that crisis. this is a high risk for us as a nation. border security is national security. and we need to get at this and get at this in a serious way. what we're doing right now is really addressing what's right in front of us, but as we all know in this room, we do need to address the overall immigration law system entirely to be able
to have better management and better control of our borders. and so i completely agree with both being critically important. final thing i'd say, sir, and i think it's important to put in context, i will say and i've traveled all around the world, and i think i've got the expertise now to say this. the united states has the most sophisticated and the most advanced aviation security system in the world, bar none, within the context of our legal structure and within the context of our great american culture. the other thing to keep in mind is that we are one of the only security systems that does covert testing. because we want to know where those vulnerabilities are. we want to know where they are before our adversary does, and we want to, to the chairman and ranking member's point, we want to close them as quickly as we can. that's what i pledge to focus on. >> thank you.
we need that same security advancement in the best in the world at our border. how many tsos are currently at the border, do you know? >> we have under 88 -- we have under 100 tsos deployed to the southern border. these are all volunteers. and whenever we decide that a volunteer is able to deploy, we take a very careful look at the airport from which he or she is deploying to make sure that we can mitigate the risks at that airport and manage through-put for all the passengers going through. so we are cognizant of that, but i have to balance off the risk at the southern border with the need to keep airports staffed. and the other thing to -- >> are those 88, is that going to significantly decrease aviation security? >> no, sir, it will have no effect on aviation security. none whatsoever. we have baselines of aviation security that we do not go below.
that's been my guidance since the first day i came into this position. >> thank you very much. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman and ranking member for hold this important hearing and thank all of you for your dedication and being here today. there was an article recently in the atlantic journal constitution published in may of 2019, and i quote, airlines brought in about $4.9 billion in baggage fees in 2019 alone. and one airline made a profit of over a billion dollars. so there's an incentive for them to charge for these bags. they are making a lot of money off of it. and it can cost families really hundreds of dollars to check their luggage, so i'm seeing that these carry-on bags are huge. usually when i fly, they can't even put them on the plane. they have to check them at the door and they're so overstuffed you can't even put them on top. so i'd like to ask administrator pekoske, what is the impact of
increasing amounts of carry-on luggage being moved through the checkpoints, and is this baggage being tightly stuffed -- more tightly stuffed in the past, and is this a security challenge in any way? is the standard for carry-on luggage in the screening for it the same as the standard for screening of luggage that goes into the belly? is it a security challenge for you now? or do you see it as a security challenge? >> yes, ma'am. you know, the two factors at play. one is the -- generally a 4% to 5% year over year increase is passenger travel. an increase volume of passengers, which is a good thing because it demonstrates our economy is doing very, very well. but also to your point, passengers would prefer not to check a bag. they prefer to have the bag in their possession because sometimes they have things they want to keep close by and they also want to exit the airport quickly.
we are seeing passengers put more things -- >> and also the cost. >> and also the cost, yes, ma'am. >> the technology we're deploying at the screened check point is the computer tomography or c.a.t. scan technology can see in a three-dimensional way what's in a carry-on bag. it addresses that issue of having a lot of things there. the more things in -- >> is it as secure as checking of what goes into the belly of the plane? deployed, ma'am, it will be more >> once this technology is all -- >> once this technology is all deployed, ma'am, it will be more secure. >> wow. okay. do airline policies that charge increasing amounts for checked bags have any ripple effect that impact aviation security in any way? >> no, congresswoman. they don't impact aviation security because we inspect every bag to the same standard and ensure we do that whether it's a checked bag to checked bag standard or carry-on bag to carry-on bag standards. >> and mr. baumgartner, do you have any thoughts on the impact that increasing amounts of overstuffed
baggage has on any of the security vulnerabilities that your team has identified in the checkpoints? >> yes, ma'am. we have noticed in the past as we've done our covert testing that as more travelers bring on more densely packed bags, it slows things down, and there have been some difficulties sort of identifying items in those bags. >> okay. i'd like to ask administrator pekoske, do you keep records on attempts to violate security through the airport? every now and then i talk to pilots who say they feel sometimes our enemies are checking our security. they catch them doing certain
things. one told me in the lavatory, they literally tried to cut through the lavatory into the cockpit with a knife or a machine of some type. do you keep records of these, quote, attempts and could you share with us the amount of them and what we're doing about it every now and then in the airport and they close it down? and you don't even know why, but i feel they found something, they feel that is a threat to people. >> yes, ma'am. we keep records of all of the attempts to evade security or to in some way, shape or form get through security in a manner that you shouldn't. every single day, i get a report that highlights all of the security attempts throughout the entire system. we are seeing just anecdotally, i'm seeing more of them on a daily basis. part of that is driven by the fact we're seeing more passengers but there are more attempts to create security situations both in airports and also on board aircraft. >> can you share with us the -- an estimated amount per year?
>> i can't. that would be just literally off the top of my head, i would say that every day the report i get is several pages long. it talks about every incident that occurs in an airport. we can summarize some of that stuff if you'd like. but that's part of our risk evaluation process. we do look at trends of what are we seeing in our own experience happening at the checkpoint. but there's a part of this, too. we don't want to be rearward looking only. looking at the past. we want to be looking at where we think the threat is going. >> i would like to see that if you could give it to the chairman, we could all study it. thank you. >> before we go to mr. meadows, i'm just curious, mr. pekoske, how much of this has to do with training? >> there's a good deal that has to do with training. it's a combination of training, the procedures i mentioned, making the procedures more understandable, and finally the technology. we put a lot of emphasis on training as you know. we have a tsa academy now that has stood up so every officer
goes through this academy in glencoe, georgia. an attempt to standardize the training. we do have a tso, transportation security officer career progression plan that financially rewards officers for completing additional training and gaining additional certifications. >> thank you. mr. meadows? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. pekoske, at what point are we going to have the gao and the inspector general's recommendations completed and closed? >> sir, we should have all of the recommendations that are earlier than fiscal 17 completed and closed by the end of this calendar year. that's our goal. some of the other recommendations that are 17 and more current do take a little more time because they involve, for example, acquisition programs. there's one technology that we're using to better identify a passenger at the first entry point into a screening checkpoint. the ig will close that once we make further progress that acquisition project.
some of it is budget based. >> so if we're looking at these particular -- and i'm over here. i know it's kind of like the voice of god, but -- if we're looking at some of these recommendations, here's one of the frustrations i have. you talk about airline passenger counts going up. you talk about carry-ons going up and yet much of what tsa has done has not changed the way that you actually screen passengers. and you know, if you want to look at a model of inefficiency, go to reagan right here where every single member is judging tsa each and every week that they fly out. and yet, what we find are the standards that are used are standards that many times were put in place 10, 15 years ago. at what point are we going to have a change in terms of trying to make that a more efficient so that we don't get bogged down?
>> we're doing a couple things, sir. one is to focus on making precheck purely precheck. based on a series of rules, a passenger who is not a precheck registered or global entry of registrant could get precheck on their boarding pass. we are phasing out out over the course of the next several months so the precheck experience should get quite a bit better. we are also prototyping a process where we do assess risk by passenger. and can we provide a different level of screening for passengers we deem low risk but not -- >> so when do you implement that? and the reason i say that is i've gone through and gotten random screened in reagan where they do the whole thing for some types of gun powder, i guess, on my hand. and i've been searched in ways that, you know, candidly, i wouldn't recommend any american citizen being searched that way and yet your tsa agents seem to be laughing because they knew i was a member of congress.
so at what point are we going to start looking at profiling, and i use that word delicately, where we actually address the people that are most high risk. >> that's the goal, sir, is to really focus the resources on where the -- >> i know that's the goal. but when we are going to do that? >> it takes some time. >> this is not our first rodeo. we've been here with the chairman, where we've had these same kind of issues over the last seven years. and we've had the same kind of inability to get them done. and it seems like you are a serious guy that you want to get it done, but i guess i am tired of their progress being made and yet we're not seeing any progress at our nation's airports. >> that's one of the reasons we developed the caplan investment plan because a lot of this is technology. you mentioned going through and getting a pat-down. nobody likes that. the officers don't like to do it and passengers certainly don't like the invasion of their privacy with a pat-down.
there is technology throughout that will begin to address that more completely than what we currently have. that's why we put a capital investment plan in. >> but with that pat-down, the new scan where you hold your hands up, that encourages more pat-downs. >> yes, sir, that is because that particular piece of technology while good at detecting has a higher false alarm rate than we like. >> so we need to get rid of those? >> we need to get something different there, yes, sir. >> so i'm willing to work in a bipartisan way to get you the technology. but here's what i guess we need to see. we need to quit worrying about the 95-year-old grandmother that's going through in a wheelchair and you act like she's a terrorist. and start screening individuals from a standpoint that are a higher risk assessment. wouldn't you agree with that? >> i would provided we always have some level of random
selection in that. >> i get that. but here's the thing. you treat us randomly at reagan very differently than you would at other airports when it comes to even the random screening for gun powder because that's not typical at every single airport, would you agree with that? >> yes, sir, i'd agree. we do a risk assessment at each individual airport. the risks at airports are different. >> there's a greater risk of me carrying a gun out of reagan than north carolina? i don't think so. i'll yield back. >> thank you very much. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. and i just want to thank you for holding this hearing. unlike my friend on the other side, who indicated his concern with border security, i, of course, have the same concern but i remind him that commercial aviation is our hearing today about commercial aviation is about border security.
and about a very important component of border security. but i am -- my question really has to go with whether or not we've made any progress here or whether we're spinning our wheels. tsa started at a very low point. it didn't have corrective actions. it didn't even have a process to assess whether they were implemented. and so there was a report about ten years ago that identified all of that, indicating it was limited in -- this is a gao report.
that tsa was limited in its ability to do covert -- to use covert testing results. so, you know, if you got the results, i want you to do something with it. so let us fast forward to 2015, gao report, and it is established the security vulnerability management process had submitted nine security -- had a process. had submitted nine security vulnerabilities through the covert testing for mitigation, but as of september last year, none had been formally resolved through the process that gsa found that it took seven months
to even assign an office to begin mitigation efforts. so i'm trying to figure out, now that you've made some progress and we're still not moving to resolve these vulnerabilities, perhaps i should start with mr. johnson. why has gsa so many challenges for this ten-year period in developing a process to use the results of covert tests to improve aviation security? they can't use what they find. why not? >> thank you for that question. one of the challenges, they did not establish timelines and milestones to make progress. but that's in addition to the delay in getting them assigned. >> do you have those timelines now, mr. pekoske? >> we do. >> so that has been progress in
that area. i think the biggest -- >> have you seen the result of the timelines? >> we'd have to go back in and take a look at that. i believe the commitment to have leadership monitor it will help in that area. that was one of the biggest parts of our recommendations. one of the things we hope will get taken care november theof in -- taken care of in the future. i'm pleased to hear there will be the quarterly check-ins. >> that will help. you can see, mr. pekoske, i'm the only member not only of this committee but of congress who doesn't have to get on an airplane every week and go back and forth and still i feel vulnerable. so what bothers me is the time it takes that we discover the vulnerabilities. you are on a committee that knows the vulnerabilities, nothing is done about the vulnerabilities, so you wonder, shall i get on this plane but my colleagues don't really have much choice. so i would appreciate those check-ins.
how often did you say this committee will know progress being made? >> we'll do check-ins once every quarter and then a look at risk every year. >> could i ask those check-ins every quarter be reported to the chairman of this committee? >> certainly. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. >> thank you, chairman cummings and ranking member jordan and thank all of you all for being here today. and it is nice to see a wvu grad sitting out there. tsa is the last line of defense in our nation's airports to ensure air travel remains safe and reliable for travelers. and it's important that tsa have the ability to address all of the vulnerabilities and efficiencies to keep all americans safe. mr. johnson, after listening very carefully to your testimony as a managing director to quote one of my good friends from west virginia, get 'er done.
administrator pekoske, the government accountability office found that there are three problem areas that exist in security operations when that existent security operations when evaluating test results. knowledge deficiency, skilled efficiency, and value deficiency. what steps has the tsa taken to help address these deficiencies? a number of steps. the first, to get the tools in the hands of the officers. when you are using technology we need replaced. there is better technology out there. we need to be fast and getting that technology in their hands. additionally, we need to do a better job of training our officers. i have been in this position for almost two years and i am very impressed and proud to serve with the officers in this agency. best theydo the very
can. they understand the gravity of the situation. we are making progress in this regard of training them and assessing their performance and doing coaching for this very important job. >> have you taken steps to ensure vulnerability owners are assigned to lead mitigation efforts? >> yes, ma'am. you've got to say to an individual, you are responsible for working this and there is a reporting mechanism. >> the tsa's mission statement "to protect the nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. our administration under the leadership of president trump and the dhs has worked to address the issue at our border.
i know congress needs to be a partner to the administration to crisiswe address this swiftly in the most humane way possible. i am worried about the flow of illegal drugs across our border every single day into the communities and in many states as well as my own state in west virginia, illegal fentanyl and heroine has devastating effects. in january, the u.s. customs customs and border protection apprehended 100 million lethal doses of fentanyl in arizona. dhs doing to stop the flow of illegal opioids into the united states? very concerned about that same issue and part of what we are dealing with at the southwest border, the cartels are using that as a replacement for the transport of drug for some -- to some degree. is to puton for us
the focus on the southwest border that we are now. that is why we are sending volunteers from across dhs to help us get financially at this problem so we can free up border patrol officers and customs asian -- agents across the board. the flow ofyou say migrants across the border is one of our biggest threats to our national security? >> anything that crosses our border that we don't control is a threat to national security. >> can you address some of the i.t. recommendations -- yes, we are concerned about -- tsaing -- retaining is working on that. we are also concerned with the screening technology and there
is a plan afoot to enhance that and updated policies and procedures, something near and dear to our heart and most all work and other security related work. there is a move a foot and a lot of those recommendations have been closed. one of the most important issues, and i am proud to say this committee and others have held a lot of oversight hearings on tsa and in 2015, we had seven hearings alone and that also goes a long way toward helping us close recommendations. >> but that is more a work in progress as opposed to a resolution, correct? >> yes ma'am. >> thank you, mr. chairman. of fairly tough questions for you and i hope you can be frank since that is the
purpose of this hearing. operating antly training program to help saudi arabia's air marshal program. this was approved by the department of homeland security. released an investigation into the murder of u.s. -based journalist jamal khashoggi inside the saudi consulate in istanbul. the report found, mr. khashoggi's killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the state of the kingdom of saudi arabia is responsible and that there is, quote, credible evidence warranting further investigation of high-level saudi officials, get individual liability, including the crown prince's. the central intelligence agency reportedly assessed with high confidence that crown prince mohammad bin salman ordered the assassination and the president has refused to provide the statutorily required magnitsky act report regarding who killed killed mr.e -- khashoggi. pekoske, is tsa still providing
technical assistance to this program that specifically assists saudi arabia with their air marshal program which supports a government complicit in the murder of a u.s. resident? >> this has all been worked -- some assessments with the saudi government before mr. khashoggi's killing. to the best of my occurrence, since that occurred, we have not done any training. this has all been worked through the state department through an agreement with state but as best i understand, if i'm wrong on that, we'll get back to you and correct it, but we haven't done any training since that happened. representative wasserman schultz: so the program that has been assisting the saudis with their air marshal program since
the khashoggi murder has been terminated? and there's no activity at all now in assisting the saudi government with their air marshal program? mr. pesoske: i don't know that the program itself has been terminated but i am fairly certain there's been no activity on that program. and as best i recall, we had done assessments but actually had not done -- we did assessments for what training they might need but had not done any training. >> are you still providing technical assistance. mr. pesoske: to the best of my knowledge, no. rep. wasserman schultz: if you could get back to me for the record, that would be helpful. my next question is focused on the sexual harassment allegations that have occurred within tsa. in september of last year, you came before the committee to testify about misconduct and retaliation at tsa and were asked if tsa has a sexual harassment problem. and you said and i quote, i believe we have employees that have violated our sexual harassment guidelines and those employees should be held accountable. at least one high-level employee at that time, joel salvatore, had been under investigation for sexual harassment. he had committed misconduct and recommended his termination. he was not terminated. is anyone still employed in a senior level position at tsa who has been investigated for sexual
harassment by office of inspection and found to have committed misconduct? mr. pesoske: to the best of my knowledge, i cannot recall anybody that falls into that category. mr. salvatore is still employed by tsa. that decision was made by several administrators prior to my arrival. and it involved agreements that we thought was best not to disturb. so i -- rep. wasserman schultz: isn't that something that you could revisit? mr. pesoske: no, that decision was made, and it was closed at the time. and so i do not believe i can revisit that. rep. wasserman schultz: you said -- so you aren't aware of any senior level employees that have been investigated for sexual harassment by the office of inspection who are still working and found to have committed misconduct. none? mr. pesoske: they have come to my mind sitting here in this hearing, but i will go back. and check the records and get back to you if there are. rep. wasserman schultz: okay. you said you're aggressively addressing the problem of sexual harassment at tsa. what changes have you taken and what can you share with us? >>
mr. pesoske: we take aggressive action when we have a case where there's confirmed sexual harassment. we've done a lot of training to make sure our employees feel free to be able to report sexual harassment because i think open and honest communications with our employees is a bedrock of a good functioning organization. rep. wasserman schultz: what actions that would fit in the definition of aggressively addressing the problem of sexual harassment at tsa can you say that you have worked on since you became the acting administrator? mr. pesoske: there have been no specific cases that i've worked on, but that's not unusual. there would be cases that would be addressed -- rep. wasserman schultz: no, no, when you're aggressively addressing a problem, that means you are taking comprehensive action in a specific way -- in a significant way to prevent it from happening. i'm not talking about only going after and making sure that you hold accountable individuals who have committed that sexual harassment.
but ensuring that it doesn't happen anymore and that you cut off the pervasive culture that has allowed it. what have you been doing to aggressively address that as you committed you were doing? mr. pesoske: regular communications on any form of employee misconduct to include sexual harassment, retaliation against whistleblowers. that's been a consistent message of mine. i would also highlight the fact that we're focused on leader development and making sure that leaders below my level take the same approach to these issues. rep. wasserman schultz: none of that to me meets the definition of aggressive, and i look forward to hearing the information that you do not have available to us today for the record. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> mr. massey. rep. massey: thank you, mr. chairman, for having this important hearing.
mr. pekoske, i want to compliment the tsos at the cvg airport where they've doubled passenger embarkments in the last five years, but i'm always met with politeness, professionalism, and efficiency at that airport. i wish that were the case at all of the airports. i wouldn't say that my tests are covert. i'm probably recognized 25% of the time. the other 75% of the time, they have no idea who i am and they keep the lines moving, and they are still professional while being friendly. it would be great if dca could follow the lead of cvg, the tsa agents there, where if you go through precheck, you can't even get a gray bin to put your materials in. they insist you dump them all on the belt and let them ride through that machine and hope that it comes out the other end. and i would suggest if we had more consistency in the screening across the airports, the lines would move faster because every time you throw in a kink like we're not going to give you a gray bin to put your materials in, that sort of slows things down. in general, i want to thank the tsos and think you're doing a good job there. mr. johnson, i want to give you
a chance to expound on something you touched on in your opening statement about the covertness of the covert tests. because -- unless these are covert tests, we have to question the validity of the information we get back. and as you said, you could overrepresent the performance if the tsos are somehow tipped off the testing is going on. can you talk about the ways that they could find out or know about the testing is going on and, therefore, sort of subvert the covertness of the covert test? mr. johnson: absolutely. and we flushed it out more fully in our statement that we've submitted. this is an area where we have a recommendation we're hopeful will be closed relatively soon, a month from now. but we did find cases where there were practices where the covertness was sort of not there and that the screeners were aware that there was a test under way. that was discovered because they
were recognized the screening bag, the same screening bag used across locations and airports and they'd use that same bag so they're familiar with the same bag and familiar with some of the screeners. it's important to note that tsa uses sort of a field evaluation team that goes out and does the screening and they also have a headquarters team. we found the rate of success in terms of them catching things was much higher when the folks at the local airports were going out doing it versus when they sent individuals from the headquarters to check. the rate of success dropped in terms of catching some of the test cases. rep. massie: these people from headquarters would not be in plain clothes? they'd be there assisting or something with the supervision? mr. johnson: they would be individuals that were not known screeners. what we discovered is that some cases we looked at, the screeners were aware they were having a test because they'd see the screeners come through. by word-of-mouth, word would get around that there was a test.
the rateesters there, of success dropped in terms of catching some of the items being attempted to pass through the screening systems. one of our recommendations was obviously to address those things we discovered about having the bag so the same screeners or even the presence of supervisors would tip them off. we made a recommendation that tsa should look at that whole process and assess it and i believe that's something that the administrator has under way to address. rep. massie: mr. pekoske, is that something that tsa is addressing? mr. pesoske: it sure is. we want a covert test to be truly covert. so what we've done is established a reserve covert testing team that's drawn from people from airports around the country. it's harder to figure out who is on this team. we give them some training as to what to do when you are a person running a covert test. for us, the results aren't really valid if they know that
they are being tested. the thing we do is we have a , electroniced etip image projection -- e-tip which is electronic threat image projection which we electronically project a threat image as they are screening bags and we assess how well they are at identifying those threats. and that's very systematic and reliable data. rep. massie: do you agree, mr. johnson? you feel tsa is addressing the covertness issue? >> we look -- issue? mr. johnson: we look forward to getting the details and the documentation on that. rep. massie: trust, but verify. >> absolutely. >> thank you very much. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you for having this hearing. by the way, i am a happy cust omer here. this weekend, i flew from baltimore to providence for a family wedding and back from providence to baltimore and all of the tsa people we encountered were professional and courteous and treated people with respect.
and we thank you for that because that has not always been the case. barking orders and treating people like cattle is not the way to get compliance. we can be civil and my experience this weekend was big improvement. so thank you. administrator pekoske, you were confirmed by the senate to serve as the administrator of tsa, is that correct? mr. pesoske: yes, sir. but in february of this year, you were tapped to fill in for deputy secretary of homeland security. is that right? it was april 11th, sir. >> but you were tapped to do that? mr. pesoske: yes. and the senior official performing the duties of the -- so do you have two part-time jobs? mr. pesoske: i have two jobs, yes, sir. >> two jobs? neither of which is part time. so you're trying to do both. mr. pesoske: i am doing both positions. i'm still the administrator of tsa but i have a very, very strong team at tsa. >> yeah, i'm focused on what you
were confirmed for and what you're doing and all that. confirmed as tsa administrator. do you have a timeline for when you might return to your full-time confirmed position at tsa? >> no, sir. no timeline. i serve at the pleasure of the secretary. rep. connolly: and my understanding is that at tsa, acting tsa deputy administrator cogswell is undertaking many of the responsibilities of de facto administrator while you're doing your job at homeland security. is that correct? mr. pesoske: the day-to-day running of the agency is under acting administrator cogswell's cognizance with a written agreement between she and i. there are certain things i reserve for decisions myself and certain things i've been asked to be informed before decisions are made. rep. connolly: seems to be a problem in this administration. mr. johnson, any views on that? i mean, isn't it at least from a management org chart, isn't it preferable to have mr. pekoske full time committed to the job he was confirmed for? >> -- confirmed for? mr. johnson: i'll just refer to some of the past work done looking at high-risk issues.
the dhs staffing issues and their having the right staff in the right place at the right time. it's always good to have someone in a position to be that leader. whether or not someone acting in a capacity and not acting can do the the same job, ultimately, we would like to see a leader in place that's confirmed or someone that's in a position full time. rep. connolly: especially with an agency that's hardly without problems and challenges. it's a hard job. it's a really hard job. i mean, 440 airports, 2 million daily passengers screened, 5.5 million carry-on items and checked bags daily. and the stress of making sure nothing gets through. no bad guy gets through. so full-time and attention it seems to me is required and absolutely desirable to your point, mr. johnson.
mr. johnson, mr. bumgardner, let me ask you, the ranking member talked about the crisis at the border. for some of us, the crisis is children die there because of the neglect and the conditions under which people are being -- iat home but is it guess it seems counterintuitive that we'd use tsa people to go down to the border. what is it they're going to do down there? what is the expertise they bring to the border, to protecting or securing the border? >> yeah, i think the administrator's best in a position to answer that. rep. connolly: mr. pekoske, what is the expertise tsa personnel bring? and given the volume and the challenges you face, doesn't it take away from your mission? doesn't it kind of dilute your ability to do your job? mr. pesoske: sir, it doesn't take away at all at this point from our security mission. we have a relatively small number given the size of tsa. 63,000 people.
and we have, you know, a total of 350 or 400 people assigned to southwest border operations. so that percentage cannot possibly affect, in my view, the provision of -- rep. connolly: i'm sorry. i'm going to run out of time. what about the proposed diversion of $232 million from your budget to border operations? did we give you $232 million extra? did we make a mistake? did we overestimate your budget because you didn't need a quarter of a billion dollars? >> mr. pesoske: no, and every agency needs the resources they've been appropriated. we do have an emergency supplemental for humanitarian purposes that's been up here for six weeks that will address a lot of the issues at the southwest border. and i'd urge consideration and passage of that supplemental. rep. connolly: well, mr. chairman, my time is up, but i sure would love to get mr. johnson, mr. bumgardner's take on that if you will allow it. i mean -- >> your time has expired but
they may answer it quickly. rep. connolly: i thank the chair. >> i would agree with mr. johnson. it is a complex organization. i don't have anything further to add to that. >> and in terms of obviously, the budget decisions are for the administration and the agency to make those determinations to congress, to make that decision. i would like to note, though, that we've looked at in the past tsa staffing model for tsos and there was a shortfall, a gap there in terms of what was "the communicators -- what was really needed based on their staffing model. thank you very much. >> mr. higgins. thankentative higgins: you, mr. chairman. mr. pekoske, due to the crisis at our southern border, customs and border protection, i.c.e. and health and human services have been overloaded with processing migrants. and they have asked dhs has
asked, dhs wide for volunteers to assist at the border. is that correct? >> yes, sir. rep. higgins: is that a process that has taken place before, for instance, during emergencies, hurricanes, other natural disasters? >> yes, it took place in sandy, 743 people in harvey, irma and maria, 885 people. an. higgins: and is there online means by which dhs employee across the department can volunteer for services in the field? >> yes, sir. rep. higgins: and regarding the agents that have volunteered from tsa to serve in the field on the border and protection, has that impacted tsa's ability to carry out its mission? >> it -- its mission? >> it has not. rep. higgins: thank you. one of the challenges that's been noted for tsa is retention of personnel. is that true?
mr. pesoske: that's true. rep. higgins: would you concur that for an agent working within any static environment, if they're driven by their fervor to serve in the field, to speak with their family and say, i want to volunteer to serve in the field on the border and they are selected. if they've are allowed to serve on a voluntary basis, would you believe that would help with the retention of that agent or deter deter his retention? mr. pesoske: it would significantly help and most of the people we send to the border ask for an extension. rep. higgins: thank you, sir, for clarifying that. regarding the vulnerabilities as has been stated by my colleagues that of the nine vulnerabilities, none have been quote/unquote formally resolved. another colleague stated nothing
is done, is there a difference between nothing is done and formally resolved versus addressed or mitigation efforts and progress? mr. pesoske: yes, sir, there's a big difference. not a single recommendation that has had no action taken towards it. the vast majority of the recommendations have been resolved but not closed. there are only five or six that remain unresolved, which considering the number of recommendations in my view is a relatively small number. rep. higgins: thank you. my research shows that of the nine vulnerabilities assessed by gao, one has been closed by policy change. another eight have been assigned a vulnerability owner. would you explain to america, please, what exactly is a vulnerability owner? how are they chosen and qualified in the mitigation effort? mr. pesoske: sir, vulnerability owner is a senior executive within tsa whose job purview includes correcting that vulnerability. i think it is important to assign an individual by name to address that so there is accountability.
rep. higgins: and you had stated earlier that you expect to have these vulnerabilities closed through the mitigation process that's ongoing right now by the end of this calendar year? >> mr. pesoske: yes, sir, for those vulnerabilities from fiscal '17. rep. higgins: moving on. a question about federal air marshals. it's been assessed the federal air marshal stated questionable contribution to aviation transportation security. i would challenge that assessment. the oig essentially stated that because of eids, improvised explosive devices versus traditionally understood hijacking efforts that the model of federal air marshals would be questionable to aviation security. i believe that's a fair
assessment of their assessment. at 36,000 feet and 575 miles per hour, if a well-trained determined terrorist managed to open an emergency exit door on an aircraft, what would happen to that aircraft? mr. pesoske: that would be catastrophic. rep. higgins: would it not? and in the process of stopping that attempted effort by someone determined to do so if a federal air marshal was on a plane as a passenger, would you feel better? mr. pesoske: i would. rep. higgins: thank you very much. moving to a question regarding your testing, covert testing, my final question. has your covert testing included canine teams? mr. pesoske: yes, it does. rep. higgins: in what way? mr. pesoske: yes, sir. we test covert teams -- we test -- covertly test canine teams in the performance of their duties. we completed a test. we're about to retest. we've made some adjustments and are about to retest. rep. higgins: so regarding the canines and the covert testing, disclosed. is there any way for you to tell a canine animal that there's a
covert test going on? does he just perform? the canine just performs, but the handler can get tipped off. rep. higgins: thank you, sir. i yield. rep. cummings: mr. lynch. rep. lynch: thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank the witnesses for your help with our work. so i'm reading an article here from "travel" magazine. a summer from hell is coming to u.s. airports, and it talks about the fact that from june 1st to labor day we'll have about 257 million passengers flying from the u.s. airports and into u.s. airports. meanwhile, we have diversion of resources to the southern border. we have a lapse or a lag in terms of training up tsos and we also, i sit on the transportation committee. i'm on the aviation subcommittee. we've got this problem with the 737 max where those aircraft will not be available.
so, you know, from what i'm hearing here, and i've been at this awhile, we're in a very, very bad place right now, transportationwise, especially with passenger screening and luggage screening in the united states. and there's nothing that you're telling me here today that leads me to believe otherwise. i do want to point back to -- we had other hearings on red team testing where, you know, we had people from -- i think it was gene or mr. roth. we had red teams go in. so-called red teams. and they would try to get through the tsa screeners with weapons. and some of it is classified but i'll tell you they taped weapons they taped .38 caliber
weapons on their legs and stuffed small machetes into arm casts and just walked through. the failure rate, the failure rate of our screeners was horrific. i won't say a number, because that's classified, but it was horrific. and i'm not hearing any changes here. i know you've done 14 different red team reports. i am concerned. mr. johnson, i appreciate that you're acting in this capacity and you're doing your best, but i don't think that tsa in this context should be allowed to inspect themselves or to judge their own competency. and i would just caution you all
to make sure that we have independent agencies measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of our tsa screeners because i'm greatly worried. we're going to have -- i don't want anybody to say we didn't see this coming because we saw this coming. our screening at our u.s. airports is deplorable. now i'm hearing the precheck process as well where now the lines at precheck are longer than the regular lines because everyone is on precheck. if we have problems with precheck, that is something that we really need to get at and get at it in a hurry. johnson, you mentioned in your opening statement a couple of times where you tested and the results were, "not such good news." you know, if i ever came home with a report card and told my mother it was not such great news, she would want to know much, much more about that.
so, you know, i want to know exactly what the details are on the degree of failure that we continue to see in tsa. i know mr. bumgardner, you mentioned we have 14 reports that you've done. why are we having such a problem making sure that people getting on aircraft don't have weapons? what's the problem there? it would seem that technology and, look, i was elected on september 11th, the day of the attacks. so when i was here at the birth of department of homeland security. it was a big issue, and we still don't have it right. we armored the cockpits. yeah, that was good, but we still have dangerous cargo and dangerous people getting on aircraft on a regular baseis and we can't seem to stop them. what is stopping us from doing this? >> it's perplexing to us, too, congressman. as good as the technology is, and it does continue to improve, a lot of this comes down to human factors.
and we mentioned earlier about a tso shortage. and that is certainly a concern for us, particularly in light of the increased travel this summer. training policies and procedures. those are all issues that remain concerns for us and it just -- rep. lynch: are we paying them enough? is it the fact there's big turnover with tsos? mr. bumgardner: there is a turnover in the tso ranks. and that is an issue discussed in a previous hearing, and i think that's hotly debated up here. rep. lynch: okay. thank you for your time. mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. pekoske, given the tsa volunteers are being sent to the borders, is it fair to say there's a crisis at our border? mr. pesoske: yes, sir.
mr. roy: when colleagues of mine ask what tsa would be doing at the border, what their role would be at the border, might i ask you if cbp's mission is to house, even temporarily, people in facilities especially when those facilities are not designed for housing people. is that their mission? mr. pesoske: yes, sir. that's the critical issue. mr. bumgardner: -- the facilities are not designed for what they're being used. mr. roy: would it be safe to say cbp's primary mission is to secure the border. mr. pesoske: our goal is to free up those officers to do their job. mr. roy: is cbp overwhelmed? mr. pesoske: completely. mr. roy: when did the supplemental come to congress? mr. pesoske: about six weeks ago. mr. roy: has it been acted upon yet? mr. pesoske: it has not. mr. roy: did you hear of an adult and three children found dead at the border two days ago? mr. pesoske: yes, on friday. mr. roy: in whose custody were they? mr. pesoske: they were in border patrol custody. when they came across the border, they passed away before the -- border patrol found them.
mr. roy: so they were in the custody of probably the gulf cartel or coyotes employed by the entity? mr. pesoske: they were. and the border patrol searched for two days to find everybody else. mr. roy: when cbp is accused of people dying in their custody it's children given life-saving treatment at the facilities or hospitals because they're injured or sick? mr. pesoske: yes, sir, and all medically screened before they come in. mr. roy: isn't it often the case they're sometimes in bad shape after the journey and after being abused by cartels because this country refuses to secure its border? mr. pesoske: that's correct. mr. roy: is it helpful for the task at hand when people say the following. speaker pelosi called the situation a fake crisis at the border. senate minority leader chuck schumer called it a crisis that does not exist. majority leader hoyer said there is no crisis at the border. house democratic caucus chairman hakim jeffrey said there's no crisis at the border. house foreign relations committee chairman eliot engel called the situation a fake crisis at the border. house judiciary committee chairman jerry nadler said there is no crisis at the border. representative wasserman schultz , a colleague on this committee said we don't have a border crisis. dogget called it a phony border
crisis. bloomenauer called it a fake crisis at the border. representative sanford bishop call it a crisis that does not exist. jooesus garcia, suzanne bonamicci, and others called it a nonexistent border crisis. former congressman and current california ag javier bacera said there is no border crisis. is that helpful to identifying and establishing that there is, in fact, a crisis at the border for congress to act appropriately and responsibly to deal with the crisis, provide necessary materials and support to deal with the crisis and to actually be responsible in our job to secure the american people and provide for safety and well-being of the migrants who seek a better life in this country. is that helpful to have all of those quotes and statements being made over the last four or five months. mr. pesoske: not only is it not helpful, it's not correct. mr. roy: and in the extent it's not helpful, do you think it is -- has colored perceptions about what is actually happening at the border of the last four or five months. mr. pesoske: i think it has. mr. roy: has it made it
difficult to get the resources to do the job for border patrol, i.c.e. and everybody deal with this crisis? mr. pesoske: it has. and the emergency humanitarian supplemental will address those issues. mr. roy: and is it safe to say that has an impact when having to deal with tsa and deal with whether you're sending 300, 400 or 500 volunteers to support this because we've not done our job in congress to provide the resources to do the job? mr. pesoske: yes. mr. roy: thank you, mr. pekoske. and i would yield to mr. jordan. rep. jordan: thank you so much, chairman. administrator, i have a question for you. would a wall have prevented the death of the family? mr. pesoske: i don't know the specifics to be able to answer that question fully. rep. jordan: yeah, so i think it's very clear that i think we -- you mentioned the need for
immigration reform to fix this broken immigration system. i think that needs to be the focus rather than both sides yelling out there's a crisis. i think the humanitarian crisis is real. the number of children that are in our care and increasingly becoming very aware that it's becoming a public health crisis as well. i'm going to take this in a different direction, if i may, chairman. i want to talk about precheck recommendations. precheck program is a program that enables u.s. citizens as we know and lawful permanent residents, green receiveders, to expedited checkpoint screening if they provide their personal biographic information, documents, fingerprints to tsa and are cleared for such screening after background check is completed. is that correct? >> that's correct. rep. tlaib:: is -- so are you familiar with clear? >> i am. rep. tlaib:: so i want you to know for a while, i've been going and i kind of watch the process of clear and realize and
can they transfer that contract to yet another company? and again, this is for-profit companies, private outside companies, that are coming in, gathering the data and by them being there at the airport next to the pre-tsa line and cutting -- we have kind of given some sort of blessing and credibility to this company to do that practice. so what division approves this outside contract and what kind of oversight are we having in regards to this process? scaldsoske: clear is what -- what is called a registered traveler company and it was established by congress so that program was established by congress as being implemented as congress had intended. the clear organization is not under contract with tsa, it is under contract with individual airports. so there's no contractual relationship between tsa and clear. our relationship to clear is via the airports, through the airport security program which we put in place at each airport around the country. rep. tlaib: so is there -- maybe
director johnson or the administrator can answer, do you see any security risks of the data being collected and being cleared through -- you know, people are being -- the cleared process that they've been using to get expedited through the line? mr. johnson: well, we have looked at the precheck program in the past. we haven't really looked at the clear program. mr. pesoske: the other thing i would add, ma'am, that we reviewed clear's data security protocols and we held them to the nist standards and we were satisfied. their data integrity met those standards. may,tlaib: chairman, if i i think it is critical gao includes this in their review in making sure we hold them accountable because the residents and the people that are being registered in clear don't know this is not a government agency. they're not told that. they're not -- they think that this is an extension of tsa, administrator.
you probably already know that. they're making money off of our residents and we need to make sure that their data and information is protected. rep. cummings: thank you very much. mr. gibbs. rep. gibbs: thank you, mr. chairman. i'll state right off the bat i fly virtually every week and i have a good experience going through tsa almost 100% of the time. so it's good. i wanted to go here. i have an article on the report that tsa has been violating their own policy with regard to migrants who are released from federal custody and put on flights not having their required documentation. and there's a list here of 15 different things and only takes one. you know, obviously one's a driver's license, the passport, border crossing card. federally recognized tribal issued i.d. card. just to name a few of the 15.
so according to this article, that this was documented by some several department of homeland security officials, so i'll give you a chance to answer this in a second. i also wanted to relate it to we talk about -- my colleague congressman heist talking about the people coming across the apprehended 144,000 in the month of may alone, and securing our border but then allegedly we're putting people that are catching on these planes to disperse them throughout the country. you are shaking your head yes, so i assume that is happening, correct? because theappening system, we know, is overwhelmed but also there was an 2015 court ruling that bars i.c.e. from holding the families for more than 20 days. so i guess what i'm asking you, so we are putting migrants -- people who come across the
border illegally, putting them on airplanes without documentation. we don't know who they are, flying them to all over the united states. and -- is that correct? mr. pesoske: no, sir, it's not correct. they are flying in the united states, usually to reunite with family members or to go to other shelters that are throughout the country. what they present is what's called the nta notice to appear which is a u.s. government document that provides them notice to appear before a judicial process to further their immigration claim. the notice to appear is not a form of identity verification. their identity is verified by either a cbp officer before they -- or an immigrations customs enforcement officer before they go through screening. when they go through screening they get enhanced screening as they go through that process. so we have a federal officer that validates the identity and we also give them advanced -- enhanced screening. rep. gibbs: how many actually
appear when they're supposed to appear? mr. pesoske: about 10%, sir. rep. gibbs: so 90% just vanish into our country. mr. pesoske: they just don't appear, sir. but from an aviation security standpoint, we feel that we are maintaining aviation security at the levels we want to because we know who they are and they're getting enhanced screening. rep. gibbs: so you're saying that you're 100% confident we'll identify them at the border before we put them on the planes, so what kind of identification would they have? how do we identify them to know who they are? mr. pesoske: they go through the thorough interview process with the customs enforcement agent or border patrol. rep. gibbs: okay. it's a little concerning. because we're asking all americans to have one of the documentations to get on planes. i feel better that you are saying that, but you know, that's one thing that raises a little bit of a red flag. i feel better that you're saying that. but i think it is -- we're kind of debating helping -- abating -- abiding people to get throughout the country on
taxpayer expense i assume. mr. pesoske: yes, sir. generally it would be funded by the u.s. government. sometimes it's funded by a not for profit organization as well. rep. gibbs: 90% of them don't show up for their court date. mr. pesoske: statistically, yes. rep. gibbs: that's a problem. i yield back. thank you. rep. cummings: thank you very much. mr. sarbanes? rep. sarbanes: thank you all for being here today. i wanted to ask mr. johnson, mr. bumgardner i guess primarily if you could maybe give your theory as to why it's been so hard for the agency to respond to these recommendations, the deficiencies that have been cited because what jumps out at me when i look at those numbers is that seems like an outlier. i don't know whether there's something going on in the
culture of the organization that is preventing them from moving as quickly to address the things that you have pointed out in your reports. where's the breakdown here? it doesn't make sense because the things you're speaking to are obviously of critical importance and i would just have thought there'd be more compliance happening or more progress in responding to these recommendations and i'm asking you to help me understand because presumably -- and you can tell me this, you have done these kinds of inquiries in other agencies and so forth. you have seen how agencies can respond, et cetera. so enlighten me if you can on why it seems to have been such a
problem here. mr. johnson: yeah, i'll take the first stab at that. department wide i would sort of give credit to dhs that they have been pretty proactive in trying to address many of the recommendations we have made. they have a high response rate. over 70% some of the recs we have made over the last seven or eight years have been addressed or closed as implemented in terms of the ones you go back to the four year criteria. in this particular case, when we -- in the covert testing, when we talk about the nine vulnerabilities or issues that were raised that went towards that management process panel, the breakdown there was it took too long in some cases to assign those to the accountability person to take care of. and then they lingered in the system for over a year to over three years before action has been taken. the promising thing is now that there's management attention which we talked about and that
they're establishing mile stones for progress as well as assigning someone to monitor that, we think that there's some promise that that will be taken care of. a month from now, we're hoping we'll be able to look at, you know, everything that we have made in terms of the covertness being addressed and later in the year as the administrator noted the rest of the recommendations we have made with respect to some the tsa operations for aviation security that we hope that those things will be taken care of. we will proactively monitor those and work with tsa to do so. rep. sarbanes: so you're describing what happened, ie, there was not an assignment and then once there was an assignment things lingered, et cetera. but why were they lingering that long? i mean, in other words, can you trace this back to a couple of individuals that had responsibility, that just didn't carry them out. and therefore, you can isolate the problem there? as opposed to saying it was a
more broad cultural issue in terms of responding? mr. johnson: just to be fair, some of these are complex challenges, issues that need to be addressed as the administrator mentioned. some may involve acquisition, some may involve policies, getting that through, retraining staff. things of that nature. some may take more time to get resolved. rep. sarbanes: any other comments? mr. pesoske: yes, sir. i'd like to provide some perspective. since 2014, we have published 24 reports with 136 recommendations. 39 of those recommendations remain open. mr. bumgardner: and like mr. johnson indicated, some of the reasons for why those recommendations remain open include the technology does take
time to develop. there's some changes in priorities and leadership and oftentimes we're pretty tough graders. we want to make sure there's sufficient -- rep. sarbanes: well, let me actually stop you there because i was about to ask you for a grade. so giving it all the fair context that you're suggesting here in terms of the department's response on these particular sets of issues, would you give -- the agency's response, what's the grade that each of you would give to them right now? i understand, you know, i'm asking you to maybe quantify unfairly, but give them a grade. mr. johnson: well, i mean, the thing for me to say is that we look at our recommendation for them to be closed within a four-year window. as i mentioned, the department as a whole has a pretty high rate of closure within the four year window of 76% or so. one of the highest among many of the departments that are out there. tsa similarly, i think we made roughly about 85 recommendations or so and close to half of those have been already closed. so i think there's more progress that tsa can make and there's promising news that the
administrator now is paying attention to that and look forward to sustained management attention to make sure things get done. rep. sarbanes: okay. >> i think -- i hesitate to give a gave but i would say this prior to 2015 the grade would not be very high. since 2015 with administrator nenninger and now with administrator pekoske, there's a willingness to address our recommendations and in a timely fashion. rep. sarbanes: thank you. rep. cummings: thank you very much, mr. jordan? sorry. >> mr. pekoske, thank you for being here. i think the crisis at the border is maybe the greatest crisis this country has faced i suppose since world war ii as far as you know, risk to our future as a
republic. how many folks do you have on the border right now? how many folks does tsa have on the border? >> 349 as of today. rep. grothman: how many open border patrol positions do we have? >> i don't have that number off the top of my head but we have a good number -- rep. grothman: a while back they told me it was 2,000. mr. pesoske: that sounds about right. rep. grothman: okay. there are a variety of things we're trying to do. a couple weeks ago, president trump or a week ago cut a deal with the mexican government. have you seen any drop since then on the per day people coming across the southern border? mr. pesoske: we are seeing real progress with the agreement with mexico. they are stationing national guard and military folks at their southern border and we are seeing a slight drop-off. rep. grothman: okay. i'm sorry, define slight drop-off. mr. pesoske: well, if i look at the number of people that are in custody we were at a high of almost 20,000 people between the border patrol, cbp and i.c.e.
today, we are on the order of 12,300. rep. grothman: okay. mr. pesoske: so that's some progress. rep. grothman: how many people do we have coming across the border every day? mr. pesoske: well in the month of may as you mentioned we had about 144,000 people and so -- far this year -- rep. grothman: how many do you keep track on a day by day in june? mr. pesoske: i get a report at the end of the month. rep. grothman: so they don't -- mr. pesoske: i can easily find that out. rep. grothman: that would be of interest. have you -- has dhs coordinated with nations other than mexico as far as dealing with this crisis? mr. pesoske: yes, sir. the northern tribal countries of guatemala and el salvador and nicaragua. rep. grothman: where are people coming across from right now? mr. pesoske: coming from those triangle countries and into mexico. rep. grothman: correct. i was on the laredo sector and they told me there were
countries far beyond central america increasingly coming into this country. is that true? mr. pesoske: that's true. and that's because the word is out that you can get through the border, particularly if you're with a child or a family. rep. grothman: in other words, we're encouraging people to bring a child with them to come across the border? mr. pesoske: yes, sir. we call that a pull factor. rep. grothman: okay. when i was down there we were told i think there were 14,000 unaccompanied minors coming across the border in may. how many accompanied minors are coming across? mr. pesoske: about 84,542. rep. grothman: how many children? mr. pesoske: i accompanied children -- rep. grothman: how many accompanied children? mr. pesoske: i don't have that figure in front of me but i can get it for you. rep. grothman: okay. president trump ran saying he was going to build a wall. do you know how many miles of wall we've built in the last 2 1/2 years since he's become president? mr. pesoske: sir, i think we're close to 50 miles of wall. rep. grothman: 50 miles. mr. pesoske: and i would add too that the wall is important in
that it brings folks trying to cross our border into the ports of entry which is really important. that's the legal way to enter. rep. grothman: i haven't talked to a border patrol guard who didn't want a wall, didn't feel we needed a wall. in your new position, have you run into any border patrol guards who felt we didn't need a wall? mr. pesoske: no, sir. particularly when you're on the site, when you are walking the board yourself, everyone will point to the value of having a wall. again, to make the crossings of the border more discreet. rep. grothman: okay. maybe things have changed since i was down there. as far as customs is concerned, which countries are they finding people come across from? mr. pesoske: we're finding people coming across from cuba. some other caribbean nations. some south american nations and occasionally some folks from europe. rep. grothman: okay. that's what customs finds? mr. pesoske: that's what customs and border patrol find, yes, sir. rep. grothman: okay. i think they're entirely different populations. is that true?
mr. pesoske: the folks that customs are those that come through the ports of entry -- >> rep. grothman: correct. there's a significant difference in the countries they're both catching, correct? mr. pesoske: yes. rep. grothman: can you rattle off the major countries for border patrol and for customs? mr. pesoske: for border patrol, i think cuba is one of the larger populations and when i was down there four weeks ago i saw a good number of cuban migrants at border patrol stations. from the customs perspective, mostly i would say those northern triangle countries wanting to come through the ports of entry. rep. grothman: that's exactly the opposite of what i heard when i was down there. are you sure about that? mr. pesoske: no. i can verify it. rep. grothman: i would check. we were told coming across from customs was very few people in the central american countries, but okay. 50 miles so far. where was that 50 miles constructed? mr. pesoske: mostly in the rio grande valley. rep. grothman: okay. one other question. there's a lot of wall down there right now. how many miles of wall were constructed under president
clinton and president obama and president bush? mr. pesoske: sir, i don't know. i don't have that information. rep. grothman: why don't you get it. rep. grothman: thank you. rep. cummings: thank you, mr. i don't have that information. >> why don't you get it. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr.jordan. >> thank you. mr. ekoske, let me come back. you're not only the administrator for t.s.a. you're the acting deputy secretary of d.h.s. yes. how long have you worked there? i have worked in dhs in that position since april 11th. how long have you worked total at dhs -- mr. pekoske: well i was in the coast guard for 33 years and in the t.s.a. for almost two. >> appreciate your service. to reiterate where we have been in this hearing, there's a crisis on the border, is that right? mr. pekoske: without a doubt. >> enough fentanyl seized to kill 150,000 americans. how many an pretions last month? -- one drug seizure to kill 57 million americans.
how many apprehensions last month. mr. pekoske: 144,000. rep. jordan: for the year so far? mr. pekoske: this year, 667,315. that's way above any previous year, isn't it? yes, sir. rep. jordan: 60,000 kids in 40 days was also happening. so this is certainly a crisis and when there's a crisis isn't it sort of all hands on deck? mr. pekoske: just like in a hurricane response. like anything else. rep. jordan: so t.s.a. is responding, you have said to your -- do any of you want to volunteer and deal with this crisis and you said 349 have accepted that challenge and are down there helping. mr. pekoske: that are down there now. rep. jordan: what are i that doing? mr. pekoske: they're doing a whole myriad of things. we have federal air marshals so that frees up the customs or border patrol officer to be on the border. we also have tsos providing logistics support to the border patrol stations. this could include providing meal service, just general supplies to people. helping with traffic flow. rep. jordan: and all the good work they're down there, they're there because there's a crisis as we have established but is it also because you mentioned just
in the previous question that there are 2,000 openings in border patrol right now? mr. pekoske: yes, sir. you know, it's hard to fill the positions. the border patrol and customs border protection have reallocated their own resources from down the country to the southwest border. rep. jordan: why are there 2,000 open spots? is there a frustration for the lack of government, particularly the congress dealing with the situation? why are there 2,000 openings in the border patrol and customs? mr. pekoske: i would put it in context. you know, i think the border control and customs have had a good success in hiring more people than are leaving those agencies. and that reverses a trend that had been going on for a good number of years where more people were leaving than coming on board. i think it's people seeing the value of the mission that wanted to contribute to the security of the country. rep. jordan: to deal with this crisis, would changing the flores law help? mr. pekoske: it would. rep. jordan: would fixing our asylum law help? mr. pekoske: immeasurably.
rep. jordan: would a wall help? mr. pekoske: a wall is helping and will continue to help. and certainly, the supplemental would help. the supplemental is critical to us. rep. jordan: how about putting troops on the border, would that help as well? mr. pekoske: we have significant support from the department of defense already in a support or logistics role and that's a big help. rep. jordan: would you need to send the 349 t.s.a. agents there? >> we'd send fewer but you want to use troops for what troops are best used for. rep. jordan: okay. i just want to thank you for being here today and mr. pekoske, thank you for your service to the country and the good work you're doing as an administrator of t.s.a. and acting deputy secretary at d.h.s. and for what those 349 people are doing down on the border right now, we appreciate. this is a crisis. the fact that the democrats in the congress won't bring up the supplemental come just, i don't get it. and frankly, i hope they address it right and deal with the situation.
we've got to do all the above. we have to build the border security wall. we have to reform the law and we have to pass the supplemental to deal with the very real crisis that is playing out every single day on our southern border so again, i thank you for your work and i appreciate you being here. i yield back. chairman cummings: mr. pekoske, let me ask you this. we have to balance all of this, is that right? i mean you have had a chance now to look at this thing from a t.s.a. perspective and homeland security perspective. is that right? mr. pekoske: yes, sir. chairman cummings: is one plane goes down, we have a problem. mr. pekoske: yes, sir. but part of the balance, mr. chairman, is to make sure that we don't compromise our security standards and we have not. chairman cummings: right. and so you -- when you look at the things that mr. johnson and mr. bumgardner, they talk about possibly catastrophic consequences and major problems. you don't see it that way?
mr. pekoske: oh, i see there's significant risk and i appreciate their comments and we would have the same position from t.s.a. with our own covert testing. we are concerned about vulnerabilities, and want to close them as quickly as we can. sometimes you can't close them to.uickly as you want chairman cummings: so the folks that go down there, how does that process work? the volunteers, that is. i mean, you put out a notice? mr. pekoske: yes, sir, we put out a notice, a list of volunteers, and then we also give the supervisor of the volunteers the opportunity to either approve or disapprove with reason why that volunteer can or cannot deploy. then we work a process logistically of providing the slot and the transportation down to the southwest border. chairman cummings: going back to your homeland security position, how are these contracts let to take care of these folks? a lot of contracts -- i assume
taking care of these children. a lot of people are very concerned about the safety of these folks. can you comment on that? mr. pekoske: yes, sir. a key priority of ours and both the acting secretary and me, is to make sure we provide as safe of a condition as we can. chairman cummings: do you think that's happening? mr. pekoske: i think we're doing everything we can right now given the facilities that we're dealing with and the flow we're dealing with. that's why the request for the supplemental is so critically important to us and that's why, sir, that we need to put our resources down there. the strength of this department is that we can put capacity to a problem very, very quickly because we have large agencies that can support operations like this, just like t.s.a..
chairman cummings: now, in answering the ranking members' question, one of the questions about -- he asked if we change the asylum laws, would that help, and you said yes. is that right? mr. pekoske: yes, sir. chairman cummings: and how would that help? mr. pekoske: well, it would help us improve the flow. one of our key challenges is getting a migrant through all the process flows and making sure they have the opportunity to present their case and to have it heard by a judge. we would like to speed up that process so that we get a definitive answer much more quickly. chairman cummings: speed up but a fair process. so what else do you see with regard to -- you know, a lot of people that are concerned about these folks down there, babies in diapers that haven't been changed for days. no showers. just watching something last night where the government agency was telling a court that it's okay for a kid not to have a toothbrush or soap. and then what's the idea of having children in cages and things of that nature. that should concern all of us, would you agree?
mr. pekoske: i would agree completely, sir. and we are doing everything we can to make sure we have the right supplies. but one of the key issues in some of these detention facilities is they're not -- they don't have shower facilities. it's just not there. a lot of what we have done over the past several months is to bring in what we call soft sided facilities which basically are not hardened facilities, but they have soft sides for family units and unaccompanied children . so if they have a better environment within which to process their claims until they get released, or get off into the next facility that they're going to. so we're very concerned about the proper treatment and care of all the migrants in our custody. sir, i will tell you when i was down at the border, i couldn't have been prouder of the dhs men and women who are trying their hardest to be able to provide the right level of care to all the people they had in their custody. and all the volunteers that were down there. one of the reasons that
volunteers raised their hand and agree to go is because they feel they're making a difference. and really, you know, that's why it's so critically important in my view to get the funding down there so we can take care of people. this is called a humanitarian crisis on purpose. it's not a trick. it is for humanitarian purposes . and then to methodically go about the process of fixing our legal structure so that we have a more orderly crossing of our border. chairman cummings: throughout your testimony, you said that there's been an increase in the number of apprehensions and people trying to cross the border. i know that you have evaluated that. what do you think that's all about? mr. pekoske: so i think it's all about opportunity. people see the opportunity in the united states and they want to take advantage of it. chairman cummings: but why now? in other words -- you said that -- i don't want to put words in your mouth but sounds like you're saying there was a significant increase. first of all, when did you start
seeing that increase? mr. pekoske: we started seeing it at the very end of the last calendar year and we have seen it continue to increase throughout this calendar year. and i think one of the key reasons, sir, is families and individual children know -- it's well known because this is largely cartel-driven. it's well known that if you get across the border into the united states you'll most likely be released in the united states. now, you do have a notice to appear, but those notice to appear rates are quite low. so essentially, what people are seeing is there's an opportunity because they can flow across. again, that's why i think it is very important that we speed our process along so that we don't have to have a notice to appear. we can properly hold people in custody until they can appear. but it has to be within a reasonable amount of time. chairman cummings: you still didn't answer my question. why do you think it's happening now? mr. pekoske: because i think they view the opportunity to get across and to be able to assimilate into the country. chairman cummings: they didn't see it before? mr. pekoske: i don't think -- well, they may have. but i do think this is largely
cartel -- this is a money making enterprise for the cartels too. chairman cummings: did you want to say something? i have several questions. got some more too. so whenever you have a chance. chairman cummings: i want to ask you about the shutdown shifting a little bit here. mr.bumgardner, in march of this year you released a report entitled quote ".s.a. needs to improve efforts to retain, hire and train the security officers. " shutdowngovernment from december, 2018 through january 2019, toss were still required to come to work, but they were not paid.
mr. bumgardner, your report was released at the end of this year. did it evaluate the effect of the shutdown on the t.s.a. officer workforce and if so, what did you find? mr. bumgardner: no, it did not. the field work on that job had been done. we did notice and during the oftdown that the number sickouts went up,we were very concerned about that. and we were considering going in and conducting work on that when the shutdown ended. fortunately, and i think the administrator would agree, fortunately, we were right in spring break and christmas, so the long lines weren't terribly bad at that time. but with the increased number of sickouts we were concerned about traveler's safety. no question. chairman cummings: did you want to say something? mr. pekoske: yes, sir. i would clarify that while we had more officers calling out, they weren't necessarily sickouts. we had a number of officers that just couldn't get to work. they couldn't afford child care. it was a tradeoff between do i eat tonight or do i pay the money to get to work.
and what we saw at the very end of the shutdown was we still had about 92, 93% of the officers coming to work every single day. which i think is remarkable given what they get paid. chairman cummings: did any of the t.s.a. employees have to resort to using food stamps and food banks and other services to take care of their families? mr. bumgardner: yes, sir, they did. we had a number of communities and airports that brought food in to help them out. we had officers that were more senior, made more money. brought things in to help their fellow officers out. so it was a significant show of support and show of appreciation for the value that they provide by the american public. chairman cummings: what effect did this have on the screener performance if any? mr. bumgardner: we saw no change in screener performance. in fact, i would submit, sir, that screener performance might have been higher. because just think of this dynamic. you've got more leaders in the screener workforce actually doing screening so you have more seasoned folks doing screening.
i think that by and large is always better. additionally, when you're being positively reinforced by just about every passenger that comes through, hey, thanks for coming to work, i really appreciate what you're all doing, i know it's a difficult circumstance -- that's motivational. finally what i saw as i traveled around to airports were officers helping officers out and i t brought the organization together like nothing we've seen before. chairman cummings: are there t.s.a. employees who face long term financial consequences because of the shutdown? mr. bumgardner: i'm not aware of anybody who has long term financial consequences. i'm not saying there aren't any folks in fact category but we did pay everyone -- no one lost pay as a result of the shutdown. the other thing that i was able to do because of the flexibility you have provided in law is because i have a two year appropriation, i could use money from last fiscal year to pay people in fiscal '19. and we exercised that authority to the maximum extent we could
and really it's a -- to the great credit of the office of management and budget that helped us execute on that. so i was able to put some bonus money out there to really recognize the extraordinary circumstance that people are dealing with and to thank them for what they're doing. chairman cummings: and how does tsosttrition rate for during the first half of this year compare to the rates seen in previous years and were any -- were there any increases in attrition seen in the months after the shutdown? mr. bumgardner: we're just now looking at that data because we really had to catch up on the personnel transactions that weren't able to be processed during the shutdown. but we are seeing a slight increase in attrition. but i don't know what that specifically is attributed to, however. you know, as the economy gets better, our wage rates don't change commensurate with the economy's growth. chairman cummings: sir?
>> thank you, mr. chairman. senator graham has asked that you apply for asylum before you get to the border in the country you're coming from or mexico. do you support senator graham's legislation? mr. pekoske: i do. >> it makes a lot of sense to me. how about the simple thing that many of us propose as well, put your judges on the border. you would support that as well. mr. pekoske: 100%. rep. jordan: so they can be there and as you said earlier you can keep families together but keep them until there's some kind of due process and adjudication process with the judge overseeing that and making a decision. mr. pekoske: yes, sir. rep. jordan: the chairman asked about the increase that we have seen. i would argue it's a couple things. win is all of the incentives is there to come. you come, you do the terrible things that we talked about, that we're seeing happen where children are used as the way to get into the country knowing you're going to get released. all the incentives are set up to come. but it might also be, and i am interested in your thoughts,
that maybe the bad guys, the cartels understand that this administration is actually serious about ultimately addressing the problem and fixing it. could that be part of why you see the increase as well? because they know a solution is coming would love for us to get , there sooner rather than later get somenkly, if we help from the other side, missouri could. but might that be a reason for the dramatic increase we have seen in the last couple of months? mr. pekoske: i think that is logical. the cartels are looking at opportunity too. they know they have perhaps a closing window of opportunity and just to drive it faster. the other thing that i understand from my time down at the border is the cartels are now making as much money in human trafficking as they are in drug trafficking. so for them, this has been an economic incentive for sure. rep. jordan: and the solution is as simple -- i think you have said this already, director, i appreciate it. but a border security wall, fixing the asylum law, fixing flores. that is the solution. mr. pekoske: yes, sir. rep. jordan: coupled with senator graham's legislation, which says apply before you get to the border.
and more judges so we can keep the families together and adjudicate it while they're there. mr. pekoske: yes, sir. i would add to that a strong support of the government of mexico in ensuring that folks that cross their border are stopped at their border before they come to ours. rep. jordan: to me, this is all common sense. everything we just discussed right there, everything you agreed to is as common sense as it gets. i think the vast majority of the people across this country understand that. seems to me the only ones who don't are democrats in congress. and that is the fundamental problem. that is the fundamental problem. they don't get it so much so that they have six weeks on just to deal with the humanitarian crisis just to help these people in a short term way. they won't even pass that. so that is the problem here. again, i thank you for your work and for you coming here and stating the truth in such a straightforward and plain way. mr. pekoske: thank you.
rep. jordan: i yield back. chairman cummings: thank you very much. i want to thank our witnesses for being here today. i ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a letter from the american federation of government employees. without objection, so ordered. i also wish to enter into the a "new york times" piece dated june 24, 2019, titled there's no excuse for mistreating children at the border. without objection, so ordered. again, i want to thank all of you for being here. i think there's a situation here where there has to be balance. we've got to look out for the flying public and at the same time i can understand concerns with the border. i think that many members on both sides i assume are concerned very much not only
about the border, and hopefully some kind of reasonable legislation with regard to immigration reform, comprehensive, that is, but also concerned about the way our children are treated. these children are treated. i heard you, mr. pekoske, but i can tell you that from what i'm seeing and hearing, the way these children are treated does not reflect american values. and that's very unfortunate. hopefully, we will get to some type of resolution. we can go in circles and circles and not -- i'm convinced we can do more than one thing at one time. but clearly, like i said, one
plane goes down we're in trouble. and i want to thank you, mr. johnson, and you mr. bumgardner. we have to keep working at this. because i think there's an urgency i think in both places. the flying public, certainly -- i mean, the reports that i have seen with regard to our -- it gives me a lot of concern. and i'm glad you did not get into the numbers, because i think that that is a type of information that does not necessarily need to be out there in the public. but they concern me, and they should concern all of us. and i think that concern is heightened when we learn that there were recommendations that for whatever reasons have not been addressed as fast as they -- as we would like.
so we'll continue to look at this issue and look at the issues that have been raised here today. but again, i want to thank you. and let me just say without objection, all members will have five legislative days within which to submit additional written questions for the witnesses to the chair which will be forwarded to the witnesses for their response. and i would simply ask of our witnesses promptly respond and as fast as you possibly can. with that, this hearing is adjourned. [gavel bangs]
's washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up this morning, we discussed the g20 summit and the future of u.s.-china trade with joseph and derek scissors, resident scholar at the american enterprise institute. hishen hawkins describes group and the perception cap between partisans. betweenption gap partisans. join the discussion.
>> today, a discussion on the first six months of brazilian president jair bolsonaro's term in office. you can see it live at 10:00 a.m. eastern, online at c-span.org, or listen free on the c-span radio app. >> former special counsel robert mueller at the house and senate judiciary committees on wednesday, july 19 to testify in open session about his report into russian interference in the 2016 election. watch live coverage on c-span3 come online c-span.org, or listen on the free c-span radio app. >> saturday, democratic presidential candidates senator elizabeth warren of massachusetts, senator amy klobuchar of minnesota,
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