The US Congress on Oct. 3 passed a bill to reauthorize the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) through 2021, marking the first reauthorization in the agency’s 17-year-history.

The bill—which was passed as part of a legislative package that also included the FAA reauthorization bill—contains numerous provisions that will modernize screening techniques, streamline bureaucracy and reform governance structures at the agency.

“This legislation emphasizes stability, supports TSA’s outstanding workforce and modernizes the agency’s structure and operations,” TSA administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “It will strengthen the agency and result in a more comprehensive security system to outmatch today’s dynamic threat environment.”  

The act will streamline TSA’s canine program by tasking the agency with issuing standards for the certification of third-party explosive detection canines, and to develop processes for procuring the dogs from foreign countries. This will allow the agency to expand its ranks of canine teams to be deployed at more airports around the country.

“Currently, a majority of explosive detection canines in the US come from overseas,” Commerce Committee chairman John Thune (R-South Dakota) said as he introduced the bill on the Senate floor Oct. 2. “Being able to obtain more of these dogs in the US would reduce the cost and speed up the process of acquiring canine teams ... This bill helps build our capacity to test and certify explosive detection dogs here at home.”

In a victory for consumers, the legislation directs TSA to publish information on wait-times at all airport security checkpoints online and in real-time. “That means you’ll be able to check the security wait-time while you’re still at home, so you’ll know if you need to leave for a flight or if you can spend a few more minutes reviewing your packing list,” Thune said.

The legislation also expands the TSA Pre-Check Program by requiring the agency to partner with at least two private sector entities to increase the methods available for the public to enroll in the program. In addition, a separate provision will restrict Pre-Check screening to only those passengers who are members of a trusted traveler program—ending the controversial practice of allowing non-members to pass through the expedited screening lanes during periods of high traffic volume.

The bill modifies the agency’s leadership structure by setting a five-year term for the administrator of TSA and makes the deputy administrator a position appointed by the president. The new law also requires the administrator to conduct a comprehensive, agency-wide efficiency review to identify possible savings and spending reductions by streamlining and restructuring the agency.

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com