I traveled to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11 to testify before Congress on aviation security. It was a perfect fall day – cloudless, brilliant blue skies with just the slightest chill in the air – a day eerily reminiscent of the tragic and unforgettable one 11 years earlier. All of the witnesses, including me, paid tribute to those who lost loved ones on that day and those who assisted in the immediate aftermath, as well as those who helped get our country back on its feet economically.
I told the House Homeland Security Committee of Congress that, to honor these heroes, and for the sake of the continued well-being of our nation, we must do all we reasonably can to protect ourselves from future attacks, while not deterring law-abiding, freedom-loving citizens from traveling.
I was tapped to testify that day because I was a co-chair, along with former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, of a Blue Ribbon Panel assembled by the U.S. Travel Association last year. I provided an update and a progress report on the recommendations we had made to improve the TSA checkpoint, generate greater governmental efficiency and cooperation, and encourage broader use of risk management.
Overall, my message was that TSA has made significant progress. The Pre✓™ screening initiative is a risk-based program in action; some low-risk travelers are now getting a much-improved airport experience. At the same time, much remains to be done. Millions of low-risk travelers could and should be enjoying expedited access through the checkpoint. We must work with TSA to identify, verify and enroll this population, and we need to do so with urgency.
TSA’s twin goals of security and facilitation must be effectively balanced to ensure that the nation is both safe and prosperous. We should seek public/private partnership opportunities to educate travelers about aviation security and about new programs that will make their airport experience better and allow TSA to look for needles in smaller haystacks. That’s a winning proposition.