New TSA chief vows to tighten airport security

New TSA chief vows to tighten airport security

The new head of the Transportation Security Administration vowed to tighten airport security following recent failed bomb tests that embarrassed the embattled agency.

“It disturbs me we had that failure rate at the checkpoint,” said newly confirmed Administrator Peter Neffenger before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday.

"Over the course of the next 60 days, we will have trained the failure out of the front line of the TSA," he added.

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Neffenger has been leading the agency for four weeks and took over after a report that TSA failed to catch fake bombs and weapons in tests at busy airports nationwide. TSA agents failed to locate the fake weapons in 67 of 70 tests, a 96 percent failure rate.

The TSA chief also said he supported a risk-based security system, such as the TSA's PreCheck program, and would work to expand it.

Passengers enrolled in the program are already verified as non-threats and can go through security without added requirements, such as taking off their shoes.

Currently, only 4 percent of travelers are PreCheck members.

"The goal is to have a fully vetted population through the PreCheck program," Neffenger said. "I want to separate a known population from the population I don't know about. I want to make [checkpoint screenings] less invasive for the known population and lessen the burden on the TSA."

The failed bomb tests heightened lawmakers' scrutiny of the TSA, and Neffenger vowed to keep them updated on his progress.

Lawmakers generally praised the new administrator at Wednesday's hearing, with Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) calling him "the right man for the job."

“I’m looking forward to working with you to improve safety and making [security] more passenger friendly,” McCaul added.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the panel's ranking member, praised Neffenger for pledging to change the TSA's culture.

"Your comments are a breath of fresh air," Thompson said. "One of the challenges we have is the culture of 'we've always done it this way.' "

"You are in a truly thankless job," added Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.).