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House Approves Bill to Reduce Pay for Many TSA Agents

Some officers would no longer qualify as law enforcement personnel.

The House on Tuesday approved a measure to strip many Transportation Security Administration employees of a designation qualifying them for additional compensation.

The TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act, introduced by Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., would reclassify personnel in the Office of Inspection as non-law enforcement workers. As law enforcement personnel, the employees qualify for Law Enforcement Availability Pay -- or LEAP -- and enhanced retirement benefits.

The bill would direct the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general to review how TSA determines who qualifies as a law enforcement officer, and to select who should be reclassified.

LEAP compensates law enforcement officers at 25 percent above their base pay for two extra hours per day. LEOs are also eligible to retire sooner and receive more generous annuities from their pensions.

Citing a 2013 Homeland Security IG report, Sanford has said the bill would save $17 million over five years by ending the practice of paying some TSA employees “more for jobs they’re not doing.”

“In the same way you wouldn’t pay a famous chef to microwave your dinner, some well-qualified TSA employees are being paid higher wages for skills they aren’t using,” Sanford said. “In particular, some criminal investigators are paid as law enforcement agents even when they rarely do that sort of work. When we’re spending taxpayer money on these positions, it ought to be common sense to pay people for the job they do, not the job they could do.”

The Congressional Budget Office, however, has said the bill would not generate any savings. The legislation only reinforces a review already under way at TSA, and CBO did not “expect that enacting H.R. 4803 would significantly affect the timing or outcome of that process.”

Still, the House approved the measure unanimously by voice vote.

TSA operates on its own pay scale outside the General Schedule, known as SV. The total number of employees affected will not be known until the IG conducts its review.