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Airports Dispute Napolitano Claims Of Long Lines Due To Budget Cuts

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CHICAGO, IL – Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano publicly warned airline passengers yesterday to arrive at airports earlier than normal, saying that government spending cuts were already leading to long lines at some security checkpoints. But many major airports are disputing that claim.

At a Politico Playbook breakfast event, Napolitano said, “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 claimed delays were between 150 percent and 200 percent at certain airports.

Customs and Border Protection said in a statement yesterday 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.

Napolitano pointed to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport as examples of where to expect long lines.

But officials from airports cited by the Homeland Security Secretary as examples of how the sequester would delay airline travelers say she’s mistaken. Those airports say they are not delaying flights at all.

“We haven’t had any slowdowns at all,” said Marshall Lowe, a spokesman for Los Angeles International Airport. Lowe added that he had been on duty all weekend — and even then, there were no reports of the security delays Ms. Napolitano warned was occurring as a result of mandated budget cuts.

DeAllous Smith, a spokesman for Hartfield-Jackson, told a Telegraph reporter: “There have been no abnormally long lines at the security checkpoint, nor unusual aircraft delays at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as a result of sequestration.”

Karen Pride, Chicago Department of Aviation media relations director, said O’Hare operations were “normal, [with] no unusual delays or cancellations.”

The Washington Times has reported on a leaked administration email that seemed to show at least one agency has been instructed to make sure the cuts are as painful as President Obama promised they would be. That memo seems to have made a wider circulation than first reported.

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