Delivering better security at a lower cost might be achieved by merging two of the “trusted traveler” programs that have become so popular with airline passengers, the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said this week.
In a speech before the airport industry, TSA Administrator David Pekoske said merging the TSA’s PreCheck program with the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Global Entry programs, would streamline management of the two operations, and with better integration, possibly enhance security.
PreCheck offers airline passengers faster screening at TSA security check points at about 200 airports, in return for enhanced voluntary background checks. TSA charges a five-year membership fee of $85. Global Entry offers expedited customs clearance for a similar set of background checks, for a $100 non-refundable fee. Pekoske said there about 12 million people enrolled in both programs.
Pekoske said he and Kevin McAleenan, acting CBP Commissioner, were taking a "good, hard look" at merging the two programs, which also could enable the two agencies to increase enrollment and invest in new technology, like facial recognition, that could be used across both platforms.
According to a report by The Hill, Pekoske noted how “I have a separate infrastructure that manages TSA PreCheck enrollments. And that's, I think, a big duplication of efforts sometimes in the very same airport."
Pekoske told reporters that a merger of the two programs could also help unify biometrics initiatives at TSA and CBP. For example, TSA could adopt the facial recognition technology currently being piloted by CBP for Global Entry, he said.
ASTA supports the move
In a press statement, Eben Peck, executive vice president, advocacy with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) said “at first blush this sounds like a fantastic idea. Having two trusted traveler programs with similar costs, benefits, and application procedures has proved to be, at times, confusing and frustrating for travelers. A single program allowing travelers to get through the airport screening process quickly would be a welcome development and we urge DHS to move this concept forward.”
Still, Peck said, “Much depends on the details of how this would work and what its impact would be on travel agencies and their clients.”
Pekoske has been an advocate for changes in airline and airport security since he was appointed in August. At one airport conference, he told industry attendees the importance of innovation in creating the “airport security area of the future,” including updating passenger screening processes and bringing new technology like 3-D imaging to bag checkpoints.
New Homeland Security secretary appointed
In related news, yesterday, the Senate confirmed Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security Secretary. Nielsen once served as DHS chief of staff under the previous administrator, John Kelly. She became principal deputy White House chief of staff under Kelly this September when Kelly moved from DHS to the White House.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow called Nielsen, “a highly qualified leader who understands the importance of blending enhanced security policies with the message that America is open for business. Her previous work on aviation security, international engagement and cybersecurity gives us confidence that she will advance smart travel policies that do not deter legitimate international visitors.
"The U.S. travel community looks forward to working with Secretary Nielsen to implement effective measures to protect our country's citizens, while ensuring that our country remains as open and welcome as ever to travelers worldwide."