As Tourism Season Approaches, Washington Lawmakers Request More Bomb-Sniffing Dogs for Sea-Tac
Letter to TSA Administrator Pekoske requests five temporary passenger screening canine teams by the end of the month
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) sent a letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske requesting five temporary passenger screening canine teams for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) by the end of March.
“We are writing to urge immediate action by the Transportation Security Administration to transfer five temporary passenger screening canines to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in order to meet your assurance before the Senate Commerce Committee of ten canine teams by the end of this month,” the lawmakers requested.
The additional bomb-sniffing dogs are needed to meet Administrator Pekoske’s commitment, made to Cantwell in a January Commerce Subcommittee hearing, to have ten canine teams in operation at the airport by the end of the month.
“March is the start of the busy spring travel season at Sea-Tac, and has historically been one of the most difficult times of year for congestion at screening checkpoints. With that in mind, Sea-Tac needs temporary canine teams now before the problem continues to get worse,” the lawmakers added.
A copy of the letter is available HERE and below.
Dear Administrator Pekoske:
We are writing to urge immediate action by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to transfer five temporary passenger screening canines to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) in order to meet your assurance before the Senate Commerce Committee of ten canine teams by the end of this month.
Currently, the airport only has five TSA passenger screening canines, and it could be months until additional permanent dogs are ready to be put into service. Meanwhile, March is the start of the busy spring travel season at Sea-Tac, and has historically been one of the most difficult times of year for congestion at screening checkpoints. With that in mind, Sea-Tac needs temporary canine teams now before the problem continues to get worse.
Unfortunately, despite a strong partnership between Sea-Tac and local TSA staff, passenger screening wait times have increased significantly over the past six months. Last week, for example, only 63 percent of travelers made it through TSA checkpoints within Sea-Tac’s customer service goal of 20 minutes, and peak hour average wait times also exceeded that metric.
Given the surging demand for travel to and from the Pacific Northwest, we are keenly aware of the importance of efficient and reliable security screening checkpoints at Sea-Tac, and how they impact the ability of our region’s economy to thrive. A recent study found that Sea-Tac supports $22.5 billion in total business impact throughout Washington, but this economic activity is highly dependent on the airport providing the reliable customer service, security and convenience that travelers demand.
While there are several long-term factors contributing to this decline, including the fact that Sea-Tac has one of the highest Transportation Security Officer (TSO) attrition rates in the country, we need to ensure that immediate steps are being taken to minimize long wait times at the airport.
The Port of Seattle is doing its part by investing millions of dollars in efforts to increase checkpoint efficiency by facilitating the pre-screening process, and they need more canine resources to complement their work to address this problem. Checkpoint efficiency is critical to keeping lines moving, and Sea-Tac estimates that checkpoints with a canine are able to process 245 passengers per hour, compared to just 140 passengers per hour without a canine.
We appreciative your partnership in ensuring that Sea-Tac remains able to accommodate its growing demand. Thank you for your prompt action in response to this request.