The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) hopes to expand its risk-based passenger screening programmes to about 25% of all US air passengers this year.
Only about one in 12 passengers - or a little more than 8% - use the programmes currently, says Janet Napolitano, US secretary for Homeland Security, at the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) AVSEC World aviation security conference in New York today.
Using Napolitano's numbers, about 56 million of the about 678 million passengers who flew in the USA used risk-based screening programmes during the 11 months ending in November, according to US Department of Transportation (DOT) data.
These programmes include PreCheck and Known Crewmember that TSA has in place across the country.
Napolitano did not detail how the agency plans to expand its risk-based programmes to cover more travellers, but the TSA has previously talked about a Global Entry "light" programme that covers just PreCheck.
US residents who apply for Global Entry, which allows for expedited customs and immigration clearance, must undergo a background check and pay a $100 fee.
PreCheck also includes elite frequent fliers, active duty members of the military and government employees with security clearances.
John Pistole, administrator of the TSA, says that the agency will offer PreCheck at 40 airports across the USA with the addition of lanes at Austin, Cleveland, Memphis, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham airports on 1 April.
The agency will continue to expand the number of PreCheck locations and has the flexibility to increase the number of lanes available for members of the programme at peak times as the number of users increases, he says. For example, TSA has up to four PreCheck lanes at Atlanta airport during peak hours versus one at off peak times.
Napolitano and Pistole both say that they are hopeful that the US Congress will reach a compromise on the $85 billion in across the board budget cuts called the sequester that went into effect on 1 March.
"It's a wait and see," says Pistole on the impact to the expansion of PreCheck and other risk-based security programmes.