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Mineta: TSA running out of money

Mineta says he won't be able to pay airport security screeners without congressional intervention.
Mineta says he won't be able to pay airport security screeners without congressional intervention.  

By Patty Davis

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will run out of money by the end of July, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said Monday.

The TSA is responsible for airport security.

"I am just a few short days away from not being able to meet payroll. I need congressional help and I need it now," said Mineta in a speech to an Excellence in Government conference in Washington.

Mineta promised what he called other "draconian measures," including a delay in hiring federal screeners, a suspension of deliveries of equipment such as the new explosive detection machines, and not paying the wages of the existing private screeners if Congress doesn't approve a supplemental funding for the agency.

The White House and Congress are at odds over a large supplemental appropriations bill that includes around $4 billion for the TSA as well as billions for other agencies to keep them operating until the end of the fiscal year.

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Mineta said a delay in funding could cause longer lines at airports because fewer screeners might be working passenger checkpoints. "I hope that that would not dissuade people from flying," he said.

Mineta said the TSA has been cutting its spending and stretching out payments to make ends meet as it waits for the additional funding.

But some have said TSA is responsible for some of it money troubles. They suggest TSA is paying exorbitant salaries to its some of its law enforcement officers. In response, Mineta said, "We are really are not out of line in terms of the other agencies."

Congress has ordered the TSA to be screening all checked passenger baggage at the nation's 429 commercial airports by December 31. It's now rushing to install explosive detection and trace detection machines to meet that deadline. But Mineta said the funding issue could slow the process of screening as many as 1.1 billion bags a year.

Mineta's plea for funding came the same day that airport executives meeting in Washington said the year-end deadline will be very difficult to meet without major inconvenience for passengers.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, is expected to introduce legislation Tuesday calling for delaying the bag screening deadline. An aide said Granger considers it "common sense" in light of airport concerns.

Executives at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport as well as at Seattle/Tacoma International Airport have been particularly vocal on the issue, saying they will have a very hard time meeting the deadline.


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