New TSA program aims to speed up security at Reagan National Airport

March 20, 2012

The Transportation Security Administration unveiled a program at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday aimed at speeding up security for pre-screened passengers, including members of the military.

The PreCheck program operates at 11 airports nationwide. National is the only airport where members of the military on active duty or drills can participate.

TSA will pre-screen individuals before their flights, but the agency would not divulge what specific information it examines for security reasons.

“The fact is, we are never going to eliminate risk in the transportation industry,” said TSA spokesman Kawika Riley.

Only some civilian passengers are eligible for the service, which allows travelers to pass through a special security lane with expedited service. They get to leave on their jackets, belts and shoes and don’t have to unpack their laptops and small containers of liquids.

Those eligible for PreCheck include some Delta Air Lines frequent fliers and members of Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs who opt-in.

Authorities said they are looking for ways to mitigate risk while also reducing the amount of time people spend waiting in line for security checks.

“We’re not eliminating screening,” Riley said, adding that the agency will still incorporate random security measures.

The TSA describes the program as moving away from “one-size-fits-all” security screening.

“This initiative is enabling us to focus our resources on those passengers who could pose the greatest risk — including those on terrorist watch lists — while providing expedited screening, and perhaps a better travel experience, to those we consider our low-risk, trusted travelers,” said Mark Dolan, TSA Office of Security Operations deputy assistant administrator.

Officials said military members were included in the program at National Airport because of the high volume there, Riley said.

Of the airport’s travelers, about 400 a day are in the military. That equates to about 1 percent of the airport’s passengers, he said.

“For military members, it’s a huge difference,” said Capt. David Bossert of the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We tend to travel a lot.”

“We already trust them with our national security,” Riley said.

The military group includes members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and reserves, some of which may not know they qualify for the program, officials said.

The airport’s PreCheck lane will be at the South Checkpoint of Terminal B.

About 540,000 passengers have already used PreCheck screening nationwide since it began in October 2011, Riley said. At other participating airports, some American Airlines frequent fliers are also eligible for this program.

TSA may expand the program to Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall airports later this year.

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