The Trump administration has advised Transportation Security Administration officials not to mention publicly how many TSA officers are calling off work due to the ongoing partial government shutdown, according to CNN.
An internal email obtained by the network, sent by TSA's deputy assistant administrator for public affairs, Jim Gregory, outlined how TSA officials at airports across the country should and should not address questions from the media.
"You can engage with media and address topics that touch your workforce such as how they are doing overall but there are some areas you can't address," the email states.
"Do not offer specific call out data at your airport," the email adds. "You can say you have experienced higher numbers of call outs but in partnership with the airport and airlines you are able to manage people and resources to ensure effective security is always maintained."
In a press release last week, TSA said the percentage of “unscheduled absences” — or call-offs — is at 6.4 percent during the shutdown, compared to 3.8 percent last year.
But that is the nationwide average, and the agency does not want made public how call-offs are potentially affecting security at specific airports, meaning those looking to fly remain in the dark.
"We consider callout numbers to be sensitive and are not releasing them publicly because we believe adversaries could use the information to exploit perceived vulnerabilities," Gregory told CNN. "Additionally, callout numbers don't tell the whole story since it's more about whether FSDs are able to properly staff checkpoints. Regardless, we want to ensure people know security will not be compromised at TSA and we will maintain security standards."
As the shutdown continues past the four-week mark with no end in sight, TSA’s issue with call-offs is unlikely to abate soon.
But the agency has assured Americans that it has airports covered with its contingency plans.
In a tweet Thursday the head of TSA David Pekoske acknowledged the increasing calls outs. "There is a rise in callouts from officers who say they are not able to report to work due to financial reasons. I understand this & where necessary, we will exercise contingency plans using the resources & staff available."