The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has called up national deployment officers to operate checkpoints as a shortage of screeners has put airport security in peril.
The partial US federal government shutdown has forced thousands of security offices to work without pay or go on sick leave. Several airports, including Miami International Airport in Florida and George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas, have been forced to close terminals as a result.
CNBC has reported that the TSA has started calling in officers that usually help with staffing shortages during natural disasters to compensate for a rise in the absences of airport screeners. Unscheduled absences on 18 January reached 8%, up from 3% a year earlier. TSA officers are among the nearly 420,000 government staff that has been deemed essential and asked to work during the shutdown.
The TSA’s National Deployment Force has dispatched its members to several major airports, including Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The employees will support passenger screening.
The shutdown has not only hit the security process at airports but has also delayed the process of government approval for new aircraft and routes. The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it would call back more than 3,000 aviation inspectors and engineers to work. Unpaid TSA officers and other government staff working without a paycheck are being offered free meals by the airports, airlines and local businesses.