LETTER: TSA is the gold standard in airport security

To the editor:

Wednesday’s Las Vegas Review Journal editorial, “Instead of Pre-Check, privatize TSA,” provided an inaccurate assessment of the Transportation Security Administration. It is imperative to set the record straight by providing the traveling public with a clearer picture of TSA, its operations and services to the traveling public.

Starting in 2011, TSA began to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to aviation security, replacing it with an intelligence driven, risk-based approach. This shift is based on the premise that the vast majority of travelers present little risk to transportation security.

Nationwide every day, hundreds of thousands of passengers undergo some form of expedited screening from the TSA. Most often it is through TSA Pre-Check, which is offered at 118 airports nationwide, including both terminals at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport. Other passengers — including those who are 75 and older and children 12 and under — are eligible for a modified screening experience. The expansion of our risk-based security initiatives shows that TSA is committed to improving the passenger experience by identifying low-risk passengers so it can focus resources on passengers who may pose a higher risk.

TSA is responsible for watch-list matching where every passenger flying to, from, and within the United States is prescreened using our Secure Flight system. In addition, TSA screens 100 percent of checked baggage for dangerous items including explosives, and 100 percent of air cargo transported on passenger aircraft departing from U.S. airports is screened.

Many people are surprised to learn that TSA officers screen about 1.8 million passengers every day nationwide. TSA officers working today are hired through a rigorous vetting process and receive extensive training that did not exist for the contract personnel who worked the security checkpoints on 9/11. It may also come as a surprise to learn that 25 percent of the TSA workforce is made up of military veterans. TSA is proud of its employment track record that has given thousands of veterans an opportunity to continue serving their country in a meaningful way.

TSA holds all of its employees to the highest professional and ethical standards. TSA aggressively investigates all allegations of misconduct and, if infractions are discovered, it moves swiftly to end the federal careers of offenders. TSA goes one step further by working with state and federal partners to seek the highest levels of criminal prosecution. As with any organization, it is important not to let the actions of a few cloud the public’s perception of the outstanding service thousands of TSA employees provide every day to ensure the security of the traveling public.

This month marks the 12th anniversary of the formation of TSA and the federalization of transportation security. While a handful of airports in other parts of the country have chosen to privatize their screening operations, TSA maintains supervision over all security protocols and standards. In contrast, hundreds of airports continue to have TSA employees carry out this vital security mission.

Moving forward, TSA will continue to build on its past successes while maintaining the gold standard for transportation security worldwide.

Karen R. Burke

Las Vegas

The writer is the Transportation Security Administration’s federal security director for the state of Nevada.