02:28 - Source: CNN
TSA: Beware of longer-than-usual wait times

Story highlights

The Department of Homeland Security inspector general released a report on the TSA Tuesday

The report showed improvement since initial criticism of the agency

(CNN) —  

The Transportation Security Administration has made positive strides improving passenger screening while also taking steps to improve security standards, according to separate reports released Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general and Government Accountability Office.

But a new round of covert security testing slated for this summer by the inspector general’s office will further determine if safety standards have improved.

The TSA “is now, for the first time in memory, critically assessing its deficiencies in an honest and objective light” and “addressing vulnerabilities,” DHS Inspector General John Roth said at a hearing in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Following a scathing hearing last month before the House Oversight Committee where TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger faced tough questions regarding the TSA’s track record on covert safety tests, retaliation against whistleblowers, and lengthy wait times for security screenings at major airports around the country, Neffenger has made numerous management and operational changes that have pleased lawmakers.

“Admiral Neffenger and Secretary Johnson have moved quickly to reduce wait times and to do so without compromising security. Based on reports I’ve seen, these efforts are already beginning to bear fruit and helped keep passengers moving,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware.

Additionally, the DHS Office of the inspector general has also noticed improvements since it issued its last report on the agency’s shortcomings. “Since that time, we have conducted more audits and released more reports that challenge TSA’s management of its programs and operations,” Roth said. “However, I believe we are in a different place than we were last June.”

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After TSA was given the funding to hire back 1,600 officers it had lost over recent years, in addition to increasing overtime utilizing staff more efficiently, the agency was able avoid potentially disastrous airport delays on the heels of one of the busiest travel periods of the year, but there is still more work to get the administration running as efficiently as it should.

“Is there room for improvement? You bet there is, but security is a shared responsibility, and we each have a role to play,” Carper said.

To help alleviate some of the operational issues, TSA has expedited the hiring of 768 officers scheduled to be on the job by June 15. Neffenger also indicated that the TSA would need more future funding to fully integrate and connect the TSA’s computer systems and to equip all airports with full-body scanners that are capable of housing them, a gap in security Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, called the “weakest link.”