The Transportation Security Administration has grown from “the ashes of the Pentagon and the Twin Towers” into a 65,000-employee agency, whose effectiveness is now being called into question by lawmakers.
In an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp, Rep. Darrell Issa (R- Calif.) said Congress will have to “change [TSA’s] direction if we’re going to change their behavior.”
Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the challenge is how to fulfill TSA’s mission for less than its current budget of about $8 billion a year.
“This is one of those where we have to start asking: One, are personal liberties being protected? Two, is the convenience and efficiency of air traffic being affected adversely? And last, is there a more efficient way to do it?” Issa said.
A committee hearing this week pointed to ineffective methods at TSA. For example, TSA’s behavioral screening program — Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques or SPOT — was deployed as more of a “checklist than a real training capability,” Issa said.
“We understand that the years of training and special capabilities that the CIA and other groups have in order to begin to glean this is something we’re not likely to get much of [at TSA],” Issa said. “So, is it worthwhile to invest in special training? Yes. Is this program ready for prime time? I think we made it pretty clear that it wasn’t.”
The hearing also called attention to TSA’s irregular use of body scanners or use of equipment that was not appropriate for the job.
The workers of TSA are “in fact doing the best they can, often with machinery that was alleged to do something. And when it arrived, they’re telling their bosses that at great costs, these things don’t work,” Issa said.
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-9 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.