Congressional Report – “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform”

U.S. House Congressional leaders released a report Wednesday highlighting a decade of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) mismanagement and failures. The report, entitled “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform,” calls for dramatic reform of the nation’s bloated transportation security agency.

“Congress created TSA ten years ago to be a lean, risk-based, adaptive agency, responsible for analyzing intelligence, setting security standards, and overseeing the nation’s transportation security structure. Unfortunately, TSA has lost its way,” said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“TSA has strayed from its security mission and mushroomed into a top-heavy bureaucracy that includes 3,986 headquarters staff, making $103,852 per year on average, and 9,656 administrators in the field. Currently, TSA has 65,000 employees. Unfortunately, over the past ten years, the agency has spent $57 billion on numerous operational and technology failures.

“While we are safer today than we were ten years ago, this is largely thanks to the vigilance of American citizens and passengers, the actions of flight crews and armed pilots, the addition of hardened cockpit doors, and the assistance of foreign intelligence agencies,” Mica continued. “After ten years, we cannot continue to rely on luck. It is time for reform. TSA must become the kind of agency it was intended to be – a thinking, risk-based, flexible agency that analyzes risks, sets security standards and audits security performance. “The report is being provided to Congress and there are plans to introduce legislation to improve this critical security agency. We look forward to working with Members of Congress and the committees of jurisdiction to achieve much needed reforms.”

“TSA was envisioned and sold to the American people as a proactive agency that would strategically deploy the latest technology and cutting-edge tactics to protect travelers,” said U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Despite these high ambitions, the agency has become a backwards-looking dinosaur that seeks employees through pizza box advertising and struggles to detect actual terrorist threats. TSA needs a vision and purpose that goes beyond throwing expensive equipment and invasive searches at passengers who do not pose a security threat.”

“Despite TSA’s massive bureaucracy, reports indicate that more than 25,000 security breaches have occurred in U.S. airports since 2001,” said U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, M.D. (R-GA), Chairman of the Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. “The agency as a whole has been a colossal disappointment; the one thing it has been successful at is violating the rights of the American people. Instead of worrying about ‘political correctness’, TSA should be putting our resources into intelligence and technologies that could be more effective when it comes to catching highly elusive and dangerous terrorists. We should know about terrorist attacks before they materialize on U.S. soil, and I have yet to see that kind of progress come out of TSA.”

“Terrorism is a global problem and we should continue to consider and learn what other countries are doing to effectively safeguard the public and stop terrorism,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee. “We need to focus more on identifying and thwarting terrorists rather than spending vast resources on programs that simply inconvenience the travelling public who are not a threat.”

“This report highlights what we have known for years – that TSA is misguided, overly bureaucratic, and mismanaged,” said U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations of the House Oversight Committee. “It invests in tomorrow’s technology to fight yesterday’s threats and wastes billions of taxpayer dollars in the process. It’s time for President Obama and Secretary Napolitano to refocus the troubled agency and get serious about real solutions.”

From the top down, TSA is a troubled agency. TSA and its administrator are buried within the Department of Homeland Security along with 21 other agencies. Turnover in the position of TSA Administrator has been excessive, and too little priority has been placed on naming a new administrator when the position has become vacant.

The list of TSA operational failures has grown over the last ten years, and the agency has expended a significant amount of taxpayer resources in too many efforts that have provided little or no security benefits. Earlier this year the agency undermined a successful – and congressionally mandated – program to allow airports to opt out of the all-federal passenger screening model in favor of a model in which qualified private contractors conduct screening under TSA standards and oversight.

TSA’s expenditure of a quarter of a billion in taxpayer dollars resulted in a poorly designed, poorly tested, and poorly performing behavior detection program, known as SPOT. The agency has also failed to successfully implement a long-delayed Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program at many of the nation’s ports.

TSA personnel failures include its inability to retain its workforce, high training costs for replacements, and decisions to recruit employees with ads on pizza boxes and discount gas pumps.

The agency has also failed to effectively deploy technology. Since 2001, TSA has obligated over $8 billion on screening technology, a significant portion of which has been useless, unused, discarded, poorly deployed, or sitting idle because of a lack of trained personnel.

Despite great expenditures, TSA’s record of stopping terrorist plots is dismal. Classified evaluations of security performance continue to reveal concerning results. For example, the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, the Times Square bomber, and the toner cartridge bomb plot were not thwarted by TSA, but by flight crews and passengers, or by foreign intelligence agencies.

The complete report “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform,” including a review of TSA operations over the last decade and a list of recommendations to improve the agency, can be found by clicking here. The report was prepared by the majority staff of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“After countless, expensive detours, it is time for TSA to refocus its mission as an oversight agency based on risk and common sense security protocols,” Mica added.

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