April 11, 2013 at 1:46 PM ET
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano acknowledged Thursday that federal budget cuts, driven by the sequester, have resulted in waits of up to four hours at some airports for passengers arriving on overseas flights.
"We are already seeing in major international airports significantly higher wait times for March and April. We anticipate that will continue," she told a House budget hearing. But she said it's not from reducing the number of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel.
"We haven't downsized. There are more travelers coming in, and we haven't increased our staffing," Napolitano said.
Some committee members urged her to move more quickly on offers from local governments, such as the city of Miami, to help pay for more CBP officers at their airports. Napolitano said Homeland Security is now working to select five cities to take part in a pilot program that would allow cities to do that.
As for the Transportation Security Administration and domestic travelers, Napolitano said the feared reduction in the number of screeners due to the budget sequester has not happened because Congress passed a budget bill to supplement TSA funding.
More passengers are taking advantage of Pre-Check and other programs intended to speed up screening for frequent fliers, Napolitano added. "We expect one out of every four travelers to get some kind of expedited screening while traveling domestically," she said.
And Napolitano said a very small number of airports, around 25 or so, have sought to move to private screeners instead of having the TSA conduct their security. About two dozen have been approved. "We have not seen a great demand for it," she said.