Biden to nominate Pekoske to serve new term as TSA chief

FILE PHOTO: A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official's wears a TSA badge at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden intends to nominate David Pekoske to serve another term as head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the White House said on Friday.

Pekoske was first nominated by former President Donald Trump in 2017. Pekoske's five-year term as head of the TSA began in August 2017.

The TSA, created by Congress in November 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks, is responsible for security operations at 430 U.S. airports and is the lead federal agency for security of highways, railroads, mass transit systems and pipelines.

Pekoske led the TSA's operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and the agency's enforcement of mask requirements at U.S. airports that were only lifted last month when a judge declared the mandate unlawful.

A total of 35 TSA employees died of COVID and 23,468 were infected with the virus since the beginning of the pandemic through early May, the TSA said.

Pekoske said in June 2021 that since the start of the pandemic there had been over 85 physical assaults on TSA officers.

The White House in March said it wants to boost the number of TSA officers by 2,540 as it forecasts a faster return to pre-COVID U.S. air travel levels.

The White House seeks to boost the number of TSA budgeted security officer positions by about 5% and add $242.6 million.

Prior to the pandemic, passenger volume grew at a rate of 4.5% annually for three consecutive years, TSA said. In 2020 in the face of the pandemic, U.S. passenger airline traffic sank 60.1% to the lowest level since 1984.

The TSA expects in the budget year starting Oct. 1 for passenger volume growth to return to historical growth rates, reaching 3 million per day by summer 2023.

The TSA screened 585.3 million travelers in 2021, down about 31% over pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Marguerita Choy)