House report slams 10-year-old TSA

Ten years after the Transportation Security Administration's creation, Republican lawmakers condemned the agency as wasteful and ineffective, outlining recommendations for reform in a new House joint majority staff report.

During a press conference at Reagan National Airport, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the agency has failed to make American lives safer.

"After 10 years, we cannot continue to rely on luck. It is time for reform," Mica said. "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 outlined many problems within the agency, which has more than 65,000 employees and is on its fifth administrator in 10 years. TSA has high personnel training costs and has recruited employees through techniques including pizza box ads, but still faces a voluntary attrition rate of 17 percent, according to the report.

Additionally, the report said, TSA has failed to follow up with congressional directives to incorporate biometrics into its screening processes. Its technology lags far behind, with some explosive detection systems still operating at standards from 1998, the Republicans said. Thousands of pieces of up-to-date screening equipment languish in TSA warehouses because of the agency's failure to deploy technology in a timely manner, according to the report.

"TSA needs a vision and purpose that goes beyond throwing expensive equipment and invasive searches at passengers who do not pose a security threat," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which signed off on the report along with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The report listed 11 recommendations for TSA, calling on the organization to make a greater effort to incorporate biometrics into screenings to reduce time spent on flight crew members and "trusted passengers." Another recommendation requests that TSA analyze available intelligence and apply screening protocols based on risk.

"TSA will never be able to function as a truly risk-based organization until the agency can differentiate between passengers based on levels of risk," the report stated.

Other recommendations sought a reduction in administrative personnel, more TSA staff overseeing flights arriving from other countries, and a move away from the bureaucracy of the Homeland Security Department, where TSA is housed. The lawmakers also called for TSA to pre-approve private screening operations so that individual airports can elect to partner with contractors, as part of an expansion of the existing Screening Partnership Program.

TSA took issue with Mica's report.

"At a time when our country's aviation system is safer, stronger, and more secure than it was 10 years ago, this report is an unfortunate disservice to the dedicated men and women of TSA who are on the frontlines every day protecting the traveling public," TSA spokesman Kawika Riley wrote in a statement.

Riley said that in the past 10 years, TSA has "established a multi-layered security system reaching from curb to cockpit," noting that officers have prevented more than 1,100 guns from being brought onto passenger aircraft this year alone. He named the agency's PreCheck program and modified security screenings for children as initiatives that are helping to move the agency toward more effective security models.

In identical written testimony before the House Homeland Security and Commerce, Science and Transportation committees earlier this month, TSA Administrator John Pistole said TSA had taken steps in "advancing the agency toward the ultimate goal of providing the most effective security in the most efficient way possible."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.