The TSA can benefit tremendously if more passengers enrolled in the programs.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides an essential service that ensures the safety and security of air travelers. But the agency has confronted morale and staffing issues for years—long before the most recent partial federal government shutdown.

The 35-day stalemate stretched the agency’s ability to provide optimum security. There were reports of travel disruptions as officers called out of work in higher numbers due to the financial strain of working without pay. More than 1,700 TSA officers walked off the job permanently, and it is not yet clear if that will have lasting effects on the agency’s staffing.

But there is a simple way to alleviate staffing pressures in the event of another government shutdown: promote and expand the TSA Precheck program and the Registered Traveler Program.

The TSA can benefit tremendously if more passengers enrolled in the programs. TSA Precheck passengers are thoroughly pre-screened and eliminated as security risks, and the security checkpoint process is faster as TSA Precheck passengers need not remove their shoes, jackets, belts, laptops or liquids.

This expedited screening process requires fewer officers, and allows TSA to focus on non-vetted passengers. TSA Precheck is therefore not just about passenger convenience (though that is a happy byproduct); it is about allocating resources on the areas of greatest risk, thereby increasing security overall.

U.S. Travel has proposed four specific measures to bolster TSA Precheck enrollment, as detailed this week in a letter to Congress:

  • Require TSA to spend more of its unobligated TSA Precheck funding on expedited enrollment efforts.
  • Require TSA to offer volume discounts and a streamlined enrollment process.
  • Require TSA to allow individuals with security clearances to opt into TSA Precheck.
  • Urge TSA to allow enrollees to pay under a subscription model so that the cost of the application better aligns with the benefits received.

Security should not hinge on budget battles in Congress. The TSA can be more effective if more passengers enrolled in TSA Precheck, and increased enrollment eases the burden on valued TSA officers who are stretched thin and short-staffed. U.S. Travel is ready and willing to advise Congress on how to expand TSA Precheck and the Registered Traveler Program and improve the functionality of this important agency.