House Republicans Challenge TSA’s $50 Million Clothing Order

TSA Administrator John Pistole TSA Administrator John Pistole J. Scott Applewhite/AP File Photo

The politics of sequestration continued on Capitol Hill with a letter from two House Republican subcommittee chairmen questioning the Transportation Security Administration’s award of a $50 million contract for new screener uniforms at a time when the Homeland Security Department is warning of furloughs and flight delays.

In a March 28 letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and John Mica, R-Fla., requested “a briefing and information” on the one-year deal signed in February with VF Imagewear Inc.

The subcommittee chairmen cited news reports that some of the company’s clothing is made in Mexico, a possible violation of Buy America provisions in trade law. And they cited comments from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in early March, after sequestration took effect, warning of furloughs of TSA screeners and advising travelers to be patient and arrive at airports early. “Was any consideration made for a delay in acquisition of these uniforms in light of the possible impacts of sequestration two days later?” the lawmakers asked.

The lawmakers asked Pistole to provide a copy of the contract by April 11, as well as answers to a series of questions on its terms and the agency’s general approach to spending on uniforms.

TSA issued a statement saying the $50 million figure represents the "maximum value, not the amount expended," and that the contract was intended to fill a gap in service after a previous contract expired, according to news reports first published by the right-leaning website CNSNews.com.

"The new DHS-wide contract to purchase all component uniforms won't take effect until next year, so TSA signed an interim two-year contract on Feb. 22, 2013, with a $50-million dollar ceiling to continue to procure new uniforms," the agency said. "Without the contract bridge, TSA would not have been able to procure additional uniforms which are lower than or equal to the cost of any other uniform worn by officers in the federal government."

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