TSA chief: Pre-Check program getting good reviews

"We are also working with (Customs Border Patrol) to ensure that individuals who want to apply for Trusted Traveler Programs are able to do so in an efficient manner," he said.

Pistole's testimony came at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee called by Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to examine aviation security a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Pistole said Wednesday that programs like Pre-Check were helping to improve the overall security of the aviation system.

"Since I became TSA Administrator, I have listened to ideas from people all over this country, including our key stakeholders and security professionals, and I have heard from our dedicated workforce and our counterparts abroad about how TSA can work better and smarter," he said. "Based on this feedback, last fall, I directed the agency to begin developing a strategy for enhanced risk-based security (RBS), which is based on the simple premise of focusing our limited resources on the passengers we know least about.

"I am pleased to report to the committee today that in the past few months we have taken concrete steps to implement key components of the agency’s intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to security, advancing the agency toward the ultimate goal of providing the most effective security in the most efficient way possible," he said.

One of the other programs that was discussed by Pistole Wednesday's was TSA behavior dedication program, in which passengers will be interviewed as a means of assessing suspicious behavior by their reactions to certain questions.

Critics have derided the behavior dedication program, which is also being tested in Boston. Democrats in the House have referred to the interviews as "chat-downs," a reference to TSA's unpopular pat-down hand searches. 

Pistole told lawmakers Wednesday that program was not as far along as Pre-Check.

"Preliminary analysis from Boston shows an increase in the rate of detection of high-risk passengers," he said. "However, additional data is required to understand if the trend seen in the Boston data is statistically significant and replicable at other airports."

Pistole said TSA was continuing to work to identify the number of incidences of a response to an interviewers question to make it a valid indicator of a passengers' likely behavior.

"TSA is currently conducting analyses with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate to estimate the number of cases required for validation," he said. "In the meantime, we are expanding this pilot to Detroit in order to collect additional data on incorporating enhanced real-time risk assessments into our other layers of security."