FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 27, 2006
Schumer: Helicopter Screeners Should Be Paid For By Heliport Clients
Senator Says Heliport is Good Idea but Should Become Self Sufficient – Patrons, Not the Government Should Have to Foot the Bill
Schumer – “Security is Not a Zero Sum Game: We are Short of TSA Agents as is, This New Service can Easily Pay for Itself”
Starting today, new helicopter service will shuttle passengers from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy Airport and will be using Federal Screeners at the security checkpoint so that passengers can go directly to their gates. The screeners will be shuffled from New York airports to meet the needs of the heliport but because of federal caps on the amount of screeners they will not be replaced at the airports. Today Senator Schumer called for the helicopter company, US Helicopter, to pay for the screeners so that the federal government won’t have to foot the bill.
“The bottom line here is that there are not enough screeners to go around. The fact that we are taking screeners that are needed at airports to satisfy a luxury market on the government’s dime, is a problem,” Schumer said. “I think that the heliport is a terrific idea, but the screeners should be paid for by the heliport, or passed on to their clients.”
Most of the problem lies in a federal cap on screeners. For the last three years, the Administration and Congress have imposed a cap limiting the number of screeners TSA can hire to 45,000 (currently there are 45,121 screeners). A review conducted last year concluded that the US needs at least 47,000 screeners to meet demand, which means there are 2,000 less screeners than there should be. The cap forced TSA to make cuts; including deep cuts at JFK and several upstate airports. Schumer has called on Chertoff repeatedly to increase screeners at New York airports.
The problem is best illustrated when the Department of Homeland Security is forced to short staff airports across the country, leading to longer lines and increased screener error. The cap also comes in to play when new service starts at an airport or, in this case the new helicopter service from Lower Manhattan to JFK. TSA cannot simply hire new screeners, but has to transfer them from another airport.
Schumer today, in a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, asked him to change the policy at the heliport so that that the company pays for the government screeners.