White House budget likely to cut three airport security initiatives

Under the fiscal reductions of the White House’s new budget proposal, three airport security operations are likely to be thinned or, perhaps, even canceled.

Citing a possible $80 million savings by cutting the security programs, the White House says the proposal “eliminates and reduces unauthorized and underperforming programs administered by [the Transportation Security Administration] TSA in order to strengthen screening at airport security checkpoints.”

One of the programs targeted for reduction is the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams (VIPR). The VIPR squads are one of the more noticeable airport security deployments, often seen with bomb-sniffing dogs canvassing airports as a deterrent for attacks.

Following the terrorist attack at the Brussels Airport a year ago, the U.S. injected further VIPR operations into airports. However, the White House believes the VIPR program “achieves few Federal law enforcement priorities.”

Also under consideration for cuts is the employment of Behavior Detection Officers under the Screening of Passengers by Observational Techniques (SPOT) program. Though never scientifically certified, SPOT officers were specially trained to identify potential terrorists based on outward expressions, such as excessive yawning, sweaty palms, or even signs of a recently shaved beard. The initiative has received limited funds since 2013. The new budget would divert the SPOT officers into more traditional airport security roles.

“Such efforts refocus TSA on its core mission of protecting travelers and ensuring Federal security standards are enforced throughout the transportation system,” reads the budget proposal.

Also noted in the proposal released early Thursday are provisions to do away with state and local TSA grants that the White House believes “incentivize local law enforcement patrols that should already be a high priority for state and local partners.”

The new federal budget is expected to raise the Homeland Security spending to $44 billion or 6.8 percent.

H/T: The Hill

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