Transportation Security Administration may need more than 70,000 employees

The Transportation Security Administration may need to hire more than 70,000 employees-up from the 30,000 initially projected-to handle passenger and baggage screening duties at the nation's airports, according to the Transportation Department's inspector general.

Transportation IG Kenneth Mead told a House appropriations subcommittee Wednesday that the requirement to screen checked baggage at all airports by the end of the year would be more expensive and require more employees than Transportation officials originally estimated.

Initial estimates of the size of the TSA workforce were based on the existing contractor workforce of about 30,000 employees that screens carry-on baggage at airports across the country. But screening 100 percent of checked baggage will require at least an additional 25,000 to 30,000 employees, Transportation officials estimate. The agency may need to bring on a total of as many as 72,000 employees.

"'I'm here to tell you [that] ain't going to happen," said subcommittee chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. "We're not going to hire 72,000 people."

Despite a new fee levied on airline tickets to pay for federal transportation security operations, TSA is also facing a cash crunch.

"It is evident that revenues from the new passenger security fee will pay for only a fraction of TSA's costs," Mead told the subcommittee. Fees are expected to generate about $1 billion this year. But the agency projects it will need $6.8 billion to meet the Dec. 31 baggage-screening deadline.

TSA has already received $2.4 billion in funding for fiscal 2002, and is seeking an additional $4.4 billion in supplemental appropriations. If the supplemental spending is not approved, Mead said, TSA will be out of money by the end of May.

But members of the subcommittee said the TSA's request for additional funds lacked specific information on how the money would be spent.

"Does the agency really take this committee to be a bunch of chumps?" asked Rep. David Obey, D-Wis.

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