A security line at BWI Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson
Regular readers of this blog know I’ve been writing about the Transportation Security Administration’s efforts to develop a trusted/registered traveler program since 2006, and the effort to develop one goes back to 2002. So imagine my interest when I read this USA Today story — TSA to expand speedier screening — for a fee.
TSA’s Pre Check program is currently free to eligible flyers. But TSA Administrator John Pistole now says he wants to expand Pre Check to those who want to pay an $85 fee for five years and undergo a background check. He said that this effort helps the agency move away from blanket screening and focus on screening what they determine are the riskiest travelers.
It’s a complete 180 degree change to what TSA was saying four years ago. Back in August 2009 during a chat with aviation bloggers (including me), then-Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his agency wanted to be careful that registered travler does not become one that says if one pays more money, they go to the head of the line. “That is between private vendors and airports. The government shouldn’t give an advantage to the economically well off in air travel,” he stated. “We should be limiting ourselves to focusing on security values.”
And in In July 2007, then-TSA Administrator Kip Hawley spoke before the House Homeland Subcommittee on Transportation Security and said: ”Just as relying on frequent flyer miles isn’t enough, in the age of the clean-skin suicide bomber, just the absence of a negative is no longer enough. Once we define trusted, that provides a blueprint for vulnerability. And the security risk introduced at R.T. becomes a risk for every passenger, because what we make easy for one becomes easy for many.We need many layers of security to mitigate the risk of defeating anyone. We want to increase the level of security, not decrease it. And after prioritizing our security initiatives based on risk, TSA decided that taxpayer resources are best applied to more critical needs than Registered Traveler.”
The proposed new program, which will start at Washington Dulles and Indianapolis airports in the fall, will look very similar to the wildly popular Global Entry international registered traveler program. I, for one, would pay that very reasonable fee to have a more predictable airport security checkpoint experience.