WASHINGTON (Reuters) – 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 furlough notices would begin going out to employees on Monday, and Customs and Border Protection said it would send them out later this week.
Hiring freezes for both agencies will also prevent 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 statement on Monday that the agency had begun reducing overtime over the weekend and effects were already visible.
“Lanes that would have