GOP chairman calls for 'sweeping' TSA reform

GOP chairman calls for 'sweeping' TSA reform

The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security is calling for a major overhaul of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as part of his vision to better thwart terrorism.

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Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) laid out the idea in his broad national counterterrorism strategy, which contains dozens of policy ideas, recommendations and guiding principles.

“In recent years our strategy and policies have failed to roll back the threat, let alone contain it,” McCaul said in a statement. “That is why I’ve produced a new, national counterterrorism strategy aimed at reversing the tide of terror and protecting our great nation.”

The 35-page document includes an emphasis on protecting the transportation sector, as aviation and transportation hubs remain a top target for terrorism. The strategy comes just days after a backpack full of bombs was discovered near a train station in Elizabeth, N.J.

Congress established the TSA in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and tasked the agency with overseeing the security of airports and other modes of transportation.

But the beleaguered agency has come under heavy scrutiny over the past 15 years, and McCaul blasted the TSA for falling short in its mission.

The TSA “has failed to provide the level of security and efficiency the flying public deserves,” the document says. “We need sweeping reform at TSA.”

McCaul said there need to be more serious consequences for security lapses, an improved employee vetting process, a greater effort to detect insider threats and a re-examination of the federal air marshal program.

The strategy also calls on the Department of Homeland Security to ramp up aviation security overseas. McCaul said the agency should impose stronger requirements on foreign airports that have a direct flight to the U.S., as well as conduct enhanced security reviews.

“Last Point of Departure (LPD) airports, which fly directly to the United States, are attractive terrorist targets because they are seen as vulnerable,” the document says.

McCaul also pointed out that drones could eventually be used for acts of terror. The document warns that terrorists are already considering using the emerging technology for attacks. 

“Mitigating the threats should be a top government research priority, and we must cut through red tape to make sure private-sector innovations can be easily acquired to protect sensitive sites, mass gatherings, and other potential targets,” the document says.