Federal spending cuts implemented by President Barack Obama are already causing long lines to form at airports, according to Janet Napolitano.
Napolitano warned people at a “Politico Playbook” breakfast event to arrive at airports earlier than usual, as long lines have become a problem after the spending cuts.
The cuts resulted in furloughs, or leaves of absences, to be sent to several employees in TSA. They have also started a hiring freeze and eliminated overtime.
That means some airports will be operating with only one security gate, leading to long lines.
“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.
Though no major delays were reported Monday morning, Napolitano said the delays were almost double. Many lawmakers accuse Napolitano of fear-mongering and exaggerating.
“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. And please don’t yell at the Customs officers or the TSA officers - they are not responsible for the sequester,” she said.
The Department of Homeland Security has not commented on the spending cuts, and Napolitano has not given details about who is getting furloughed.
Customs and Border Protection released a statement, however, saying that they had started reducing overtime on weekends and they have already seen the effects of it.
“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.
The TSA website did not show any major delays at airports on Monday morning, and a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation said flight operations were normal.
Passengers have also reported that lines were not longer than usual.
“Going through customs was normal. For me it took five to ten minutes,” Claudia Hartono said, after arriving in Atlanta from Indonesia.
The cuts ordered by Obama spread across all levels of spending, including the elimination of the US Postal Service on Saturdays and less Secret Service protection for the president.
Though brutal, the cuts are expected to help the economy recover in the long run.