• U.S.

Here’s Why the TSA Chief Says We Have Long Airport Security Lines

2 minute read

Testifying before the House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said airlines, airports, Congress and the TSA will have to work together to improve now-notorious security lines during a busy summer travel season.

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger faulted lack of screening staff, changing security policies and more travelers as factors that have led to record wait times at airports across the country.

One change that has contributed to the lines, he said, was his decision to end a practice of randomly assigning travelers to use a security line otherwise reserved for passengers who have undergone pre-flight background checks. Neffenger said he determined, after an inspector general’s report, that it “introduced unacceptable risk into the system.”

“In doing that, I knew that that would dramatically increase the number of people back in the standard lanes, and we weren’t staffed to the level we needed to man all the lanes possible,” Neffenger said.

Read more: The TSA and the Price of Security

The TSA faces the challenge—what members of Congress described on Wednesday as an “impossible task”—of moving travelers through security checkpoints quickly and preventing long lines that have plagued airports in recent weeks, while also maintaining high security standards, especially in light of the global threat of terrorism.

Neffenger specifically addressed the need to balance efficiency with security.

“Those things are not mutually exclusive in my mind. There are efficiencies that we can gain in the way we deploy our people, in the way we employ them and in the way they are managed,” he said, before talking about upgrades to technology and security equipment. “There are things we can do that will dramatically improve our ability to process people more efficiently, while still doing our job really well.”

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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com