Tester to TSA: National security is a rural issue too

Senator pushes TSA Administrator to equip Montana airports

(U.S. Senate) – During a hearing on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) budget today, Senator Jon Tester pushed the agency to acknowledge that national security agencies need to keep rural communities just as safe as America’s largest cities.

Tester asked TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger why the TSA is not providing modernized passenger screening equipment at airports in Helena and Great Falls. Both airports recently made infrastructure improvements to create space for new screening equipment, but the TSA has not delivered it.

“My neighbors need to fly safely too, and just because we live in a rural state like Montana doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have these scanners,” Tester said. “The fact that we have airports that don’t have scanners is a problem.”

Neffenger said that he would like to deploy this equipment to airports across the entire country, but current budget constraints require the TSA to prioritize urban airports over rural airports.

“Nobody wants to see another 9/11,” Tester said. “I don’t like to pay taxes just like everybody else, but these dollars are directly related to keeping Americans safe. This panel wants to see a budget that’s lean and mean and that does the job it was intended to do. And if it does not do the job it’s intended to do, we need to know about it.”

Tester also questioned Neffenger about the TSA’s efforts to protect travelers’ privacy while also working to prevent terrorist attacks.

Tester recently met with the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport director to make sure Montana’s needs are met as Congress works to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA will expire at the end of March.