Officers with the Transport Security Administration often recognize members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation as they travel through airports like Bradley International, where U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said they ask for updates on a looming government shutdown.
“Believe me, they watch this like a box score in terms of the approaching deadlines,” Courtney said near a TSA screening line in Bradley’s Terminal A on Monday. “Every time I fly down here, they know us in terms of the delegation, and they always ask what’s the latest.”
Employees of the agency have a vested interest in congressional actions to fund the federal government before Nov. 17, when a continuing resolution passed late last month will run out and trigger a government shutdown. They are among the essential employees who will be expected to continue showing up to work but will not be paid until the government is funded again.
About 271 TSA officers work in Connecticut airports, according to the White House, and the possibility of a shutdown was among the issues on some of their minds Monday as the congressman and a small entourage weaved through the roped-off security lines and chatted with officers as they directed travelers and screened baggage.
Courtney, a Democrat from Vernon, had some potentially good news for the security officials: although the House had spent the last three weeks struggling to select a leader, recently elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La, had signaled a willingness to pass another continuing resolution to fund the government until at least January.
“Continuing resolutions is not a good way to fund government, having said that, with the turmoil that’s been happening down there, I think that’s encouraging that people understand the use of shutdowns to leverage people’s pet policies really has just got to stop,” Courtney said.
A continuing resolution would at least ensure that airport security officers are paid through what is expected to be a heavy travel period during this year’s holiday season.
So far, 2023 has been a transitional year for the security agency which employs more than 50,000 officers nationwide. In July, TSA enacted pay raises included in the 2023 budget, which brought the agency’s pay rates more in line with the rest of the federal government and resulted in an average increase of 26% for officers, according to a press release.
Despite those increases, Courtney said officers should not be forced to go without pay due to a government shutdown.
“Federal employees by law are entitled to get reimbursed with the government reopens after these ridiculous events but that is not any sort of solace for them,” he said. “They still by and large live mostly paycheck to paycheck and that’s just unacceptable that they have to have their pay periods interrupted.”
Meanwhile, TSA has also recently upgraded the security technology it uses, including new Analogic CT X-ray scanners, which the agency installed at Bradley back in March. The scanners, large cylindrical devices that resemble glowing jet engines, allow for three dimensional imaging of scanned bags, according to the agency.
“If you look around, there’s just this sorta of space age-looking technology now that’s doing the baggage screening and there’s also upgrades to the identification technology for people coming through,” Courtney said. “It makes it quicker, which is good for passengers. It makes it a more friendly experience, but it’s also more effective in terms of identifying problems.”
The technology has helped TSA officials detect 13 loaded firearms in passenger baggage since January, Courtney said.
“We’ve got this really cutting edge equipment that is going to help officers do their job,” he said. “I think people should feel really confident about their safety here.”