Hearing Report: TSA Administrator Testifies on FY25 Budget Request

On April 16, TSA Administrator David Pekoske testified before the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee about his fiscal year 2025 (FY25) budget needs, which total $11.8 billion. The hearing largely focused on staffing and technology issues. The Administrator was also questioned about the potential cost and operational impact of the airport security escort amendment and the elimination of funding for law enforcement officer (LEO) reimbursements.
Staffing: Funding for the new compensation system remains the Administrator’s top priority. Since it began in July 2023, Pekoske highlighted that “TSA’s attrition has dropped from nearly 20 percent to roughly 11 percent today, and there has also been a rise in recruiting, hiring, and retention. With improved employee retention, TSA is able to be more selective in hiring, moving from needing to hire over 11,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSO) in 2018 to only needing to hire 9,000 TSOs in 2023, to keep up with attrition and increased passenger volumes.”
Security Technologies: Pekoske stressed that for the agency to be adaptive and responsive to evolving aviation threats, it must have the resources and screening technologies to detect them. TSA’s written statement specifically highlighted the $99 million included in the request to procure both checkpoint property screening systems such as computed tomography and credential authentication technology to achieve full operational capability in 2042 (18 years from now) and 2049 (25 years from now) respectively. At the hearing, Pekoske stressed that these timelines could be shortened with additional support from the Subcommittee, for example by ending the fee diversion early and directing all fee revenue to aviation security. The Administrator also discussed how the agency will use artificial intelligence to detect prohibited items (e.g., knives, firearms, throwing stars, etc.) in baggage better.
Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA) asked about the capability acceptance process which allows airports and air carriers to donate (or “gift”) equipment to the agency. Pekoske welcomed those donations but acknowledged that they were not enough. He opined that TSA should get away from “block” replacements of technology and should instead purchase equipment “on a regular basis”, which the security fee could be used for if the fee diversion was ended early.
Airport Security Escorts: Ranking Member Henry Cuellar (D-TX) asked about the operational impact and costs TSA would incur if the airport security escort amendment included in the Senate Commerce Committee passed Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill was included in the final legislation. Administrator Pekoske responded that the cost estimate ranges from $20 million to about $500 million depending on what element of TSA personnel provide the escort service for members of Congress, federal judges, all cabinet members, their staff, and their families, and how you interpret the statutory requirements. Pekoske also highlighted that the recently enacted FY24 final spending bill removed funding to reimburse law enforcement officers at airports who could have assisted with those activities.
Law Enforcement Officer Reimbursement Program: Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX) asked about the elimination of the law enforcement officer reimbursement program proposed in the FY25 budget request. Pekoske stated that while TSA has requested this elimination for a number of years because of budget constraints, FY24 was the first year that Congress adopted this request. The Administrator stated, “that the last thing he wanted to do was cut law enforcement officers and that he is very appreciative of all the work they do.”   Once again, Pekoske stated that if Congress could end the fee diversion, there would be additional resources to support key programs like the LEO reimbursements.
Additional Details:
Administrator Pekoske’s written statement
Video of the TSA FY25 hearing