Lawmaker raises concerns over huge TSA personnel contract

The chairman of the House committee that oversees homeland security issues raised concerns this week about the Transportation Security Administration's decision to award a $1.2 billion contract to Lockheed Martin Corp. for the development and management of its human resources operations.

Lockheed was awarded the contract, which could run for as long as eight years, on July 3. Under the agreement, the government's largest contractor will implement TSA's Integrated Hiring Operations and Personnel Program, designed to "support the recruiting, assessing, hiring, paying and promoting of all TSA employees."

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley Thursday requesting more information on the contract. Thompson's five-page letter included 14 questions, a number which indicated skepticism that the contract was the right choice to remedy TSA's persistent workforce issues.

"At present, I fail to understand how this contract will benefit the [transportation security officer] workforce, and what the contract will actually require the vendor to do to alleviate the known problems at TSA," Thompson wrote.

Thompson pressed the agency to detail whether and how Lockheed Martin will address the workforce concerns identified in a May inspector general report. If the contractor will not be explicitly responsible for addressing those issues, Thompson asked Hawley to identify who at TSA will be and explain how they will interact with the company.

The letter also requested more details on exactly what the contract entails. Thompson asked TSA to provide a timeline with benchmarks Lockheed Martin will be expected to achieve. He asked for narrative descriptions of responsibilities the contractor will have for such tasks as "workforce planning and program and project management" and "recruitment and retention services."

In announcing the award, TSA said the contract was a consolidation of services previously managed by three contractors under a single vendor. The contract begins with a six-month transition period, followed by a one-year base period. TSA then has the option to renew the contract each year for up to seven additional years. While the estimated total value of the contract, including option years, is $1.2 billion, the acquisition allows the Homeland Security Department's headquarters to take advantage of additional human resources services Lockheed Martin provides, creating a possible contract ceiling of $3 billion.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents transportation security officers at three major airports, has repeatedly criticized TSA's human resources management and came out against the contract this week. NTEU President Colleen Kelley called the award "another step down the wrong path by a troubled agency."

"The profit Lockheed Martin will make from a $1.2 billion deal could be used to increase staffing and reduce congestion at our nation's airports," Kelley said. "Is that not a much better use of taxpayers' money?"

In his letter to Hawley, Thompson said transportation security officers are in dire need of clear guidelines, proper training, career development and a positive work environment.

"These problems cannot be 'outsourced' away," Thompson wrote.

In a statement announcing the award July 8, Elmer Nelson, Lockheed's vice president of homeland security solutions, said the firm's work under the contract will "allow the TSA to have the right staff at the right time and at the right place to support its critical mission of keeping our nation safe and secure."

TSA did not respond to requests for comment. Thompson asked the agency to reply to his questions in writing no later than July 31.

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