Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

TSA Announces Pass-Fail Performance Management System for Screeners

Officials say the new process will cut down on paperwork and continue to reward strong performers.

Officials at the Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday that the agency will overhaul its performance management system for its airport screeners beginning next fiscal year, opting for a simpler evaluation method that will cut down on “burdensome reporting requirements.”

Currently, transit security officers are evaluated on a four-tier rating system: “achieved excellence,” “exceeded expectations,” “achieved expectations” and “unacceptable.” Beginning in fiscal 2020, TSA will rate officers on a two-tier, pass-fail system.

“Our uniformed officers are essential to TSA’s ability to meet its aviation security mission,” said acting Deputy TSA Administrator Patricia Cogswell, in a statement. “It is imperative that we foster an environment that both rewards the hard work and dedication to that mission evidenced by officers across the nation day in and day out, and also recognizes throughout the year those who go above and beyond.”

In a press release announcing the change, officials said that all TSA employees who receive a performance rating that they met standards will be eligible for a pay raise or performance award “based on available funding.” Additionally, the agency will launch a new Model Officer program to provide additional raises and other monetary awards for “the highest performers.”

TSA spokeswoman Jenny Burke said the initiative is intended to reduce the burden on managers during the annual review process, while maintaining employees’ ability to earn higher salaries and bonuses.

“We’ll be going from a more complicated system to a system that has less administrative burden,” Burke said. “As opposed to having to file paperwork explaining whether or not an employee was [one of the existing rating tiers] and documentation to provide some background about why a supervisor might rate an employee that way, we’re going to a system where the TSO is either doing their job or not doing their job.”

Burke said that in all likelihood, members of a “team” at TSA who were rated positively would all receive raises, subject to available funding. But she added a caveat: “Typically what that means is that it’s at the supervisor’s discretion, but it would be disbursed among the team,” she said.

Burke said the agency informed the American Federation of Government Employees of the initiative on Tuesday, one day before the announcement and "well in advance" of the requirement in their collective bargaining agreement that the union be notified at least 10 days in advance of such a change. AFGE did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.