(Corrects airport that a passenger, Claudia Hartono, arrived at
to Atlanta from Chicago's O'Hare in 10th paragraph)
* Napolitano says some long lines in Chicago, LA, Atlanta
* Passengers report no change in airport wait times
* Furloughs begin going out at TSA on Monday
* Customs checkpoints affected, furloughs later this week
By Deborah Charles
WASHINGTON, March 4 U.S. Secretary of Homeland
Security Janet Napolitano on Monday cautioned airline passengers
to get to the airport extra early because U.S. spending cuts
have already led to long lines at some security checkpoints, and
said the coming furloughs will only make the situation worse.
Napolitano said mandatory spending cuts ordered on Friday by
President Barack Obama have led to the elimination of overtime
for Transportation Security Administration officers and customs
agents. She said TSA would begin sending out furlough notices to
employees on Monday and Customs and Border Protection will send
them out later this week.
Hiring freezes for both agencies have also prevented any
open positions from being filled.
"We are already seeing the effects at some of the ports of
entry - at the big airports, for example. Some of them had very
long lines this weekend," Napolitano said at a "Politico
Playbook" breakfast event.
She pointed to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Los
Angeles International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta
International Airport as examples of those with long lines.
Napolitano said delays were between 150 percent and 200
percent at certain airports. Customs and Border Protection said
in a statement on Monday that the agency had begun reducing
overtime over the weekend and effects were already visible.
"Lanes that would have previously been open due to overtime
staffing were closed, further exacerbating wait times at
airports with typically longer international arrival processes,"
the statement said, noting that additional effects were expected
in the coming weeks as furloughs - which will go out on March 7
- take effect.
However, the TSA website did not show any major delays at
any U.S. airport on Monday morning. Karen Pride, a spokeswoman
for the Chicago Department of Aviation, said flight operations
out of Chicago's O'Hare International and Midway airports were
normal on Monday.
Passengers said that lines for security on outgoing flights,
and customs control for incoming flights, were not any longer
"Going through customs was normal. For me it took five to
ten minutes," said Claudia Hartono, arriving in Atlanta from
At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's main
terminals, the wait was less than ten minutes. "It's the same as
always," said Steve Brodie, 60, waiting to catch a flight to
Some lawmakers have accused Napolitano and other
administration officials of fear-mongering and exaggerating the
impact that would be seen from the deep spending reductions
known as the "sequester" which cut a total of $85 billion from
government agencies between March 1 and Oct. 1.
But Napolitano said the problems were real.
"Look, people, I don't mean to scare, I mean to inform. If
you're traveling, get to the airport earlier than you otherwise
would," she said. "And please don't yell at the Customs officers
or the TSA officers - they are not responsible for the
Napolitano did not give details on who at TSA would be
furloughed and officials at the Department of Homeland Security
did not immediately respond to requests for further explanation.
The Secret Service, which is also part of DHS, will see a
five percent cut in spending but Napolitano said it would not
impact security of the president.
The cuts at the agency will be on the investigative side
which handles financial and identity theft, cyber crime and
(Reporting by Deborah Charles; Additional reporting by James B.
Kelleher in Chicago, David Beasley from Atlanta, and Atossa
Araxia Abrahamian from New York; Editing by Jackie Frank)