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Homeland Security/Law Enforcement: Passenger Aviation Security Fees (2012-48)

Options for adjusting the passenger aviation security fee could further offset billions of dollars in civil aviation security costs.

Action:

To help further offset billions of dollars in the federal budget for aviation security programs and activities in outlying fiscal years, Congress, working with the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), should consider increasing the passenger security fee according to one of the options GAO identified in February 2012. These include the President’s Deficit Reduction Plan option ($7.50 per one-way trip by 2017); the Congressional Budget Office, President’s Debt Commission, and House Budget Committee options ($5.00 per one-way trip); TSA’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request option ($5.50 per enplanement by 2014); as well as adjusting the fee for inflation (according to GAO analysis, this option would increase the fee to about $3.00 per enplanement). These options could increase fee collections over existing levels from about $2 billion to $10 billion over 5 years.

Progress:

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, enacted on December 26, 2013, included a provision to increase the passenger security fee, consistent with the administration’s request, thereby addressing GAO’s February 2012 suggestion to consider increasing the passenger security fee.1

In February 2012, GAO identified various options for increasing the passenger security fee that, if implemented, would further offset TSA’s annual appropriation for aviation security. The administration, in its fiscal year 2014 budget request, proposed to change the passenger security fee to a “per one-way trip” fee and establish it as a minimum fee of $5.00 per one-way trip with incremental $0.50 increases each fiscal year through fiscal year 2019, resulting in a fee of $7.50 per one-way trip. This proposed increase is among those options previously identified in February 2012 by GAO and proposed by the administration.

The Bipartisan Budget Act modifies the passenger security fee from its current per enplanement structure ($2.50 per enplanement with a maximum one-way-trip fee of $5.00) to a structure that increases the passenger security fee to a flat $5.60 per one-way-trip, effective July 1, 2014.2 Pursuant to the act, collections under this modified fee structure will contribute to deficit reduction as well as to offsetting TSA’s aviation security costs.3 Specifically, the act identifies $12.6 billion in fee collections that, over a 10-year period beginning in fiscal year 2014 and continuing through fiscal year 2023, will contribute to deficit reduction.4 Fees collected beyond those identified for deficit reduction are available, consistent with existing law, to offset TSA’s aviation security costs.  According to the House of Representatives and Senate Committees on the Budget, and notwithstanding amounts dedicated for deficit reduction, collections under the modified fee structure will offset about 43 percent of aviation security costs, compared to the approximate 30 percent currently offset under the existing fee structure.5

[1] See Pub. L. No. 113-67, § 607, 127 Stat. 1165, 1187-88 (2013) (amending 49 U.S.C. § 44940).

[2] See Pub. L. No. 113-67, § 601(b), 127 Stat. at 1187(2013) amending 49 U.S.C. § 44940(c).

[3] In addition, the first $250 million in fees collected each fiscal year are, consistent with existing law, to be deposited in the Aviation Security Capital Fund for use in supporting aviation security-related airport capital improvement projects or for other purposes specified in statute. See 49 U.S.C. §§ 44923(h), 44940(i).     

 [4] See 49 U.S.C. § 44940(i) (identifying, among other things, the specific amount to be credited as offsetting receipts and deposited in the general fund of the Treasury each fiscal  year, 2014 through 2023).

[5] In addition to the passenger security fee, TSA also currently imposes a fee on air carriers—the Aviation Security Infrastructure Fee—to further offset the costs of aviation security.  See 49 U.S.C. § 44940(a)(2).  Pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act, TSA’s authority to collect this fee will expire effective October 1, 2014.  See Pub. L. No. 113-67, § 601(a), 127 Stat. at 1187.

Implementing Entity:

Congress
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    • Jennifer A. Grover
    • Director, Homeland Security and Justice
    • groverj@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-7141