TSA: FAT, DUMB, AND SLOW
By Attorney Jonathan Emord
December 7, 2011
On the tenth anniversary of the Transportation Safety Administration, staff investigators for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure have released a scathing report (entitled, “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform”). The report indicts the TSA and its Administrator Joe Pistole for wasteful spending, for excessive bureaucratic growth, for ineptitude, for corrupt practices, for lobbying against use of more efficient and effective private security firms in lieu of TSA personnel, for relying on costly and unproven technologies, and for inefficient deployment of security systems. The image of TSA that comes out of the report is one of a fat, dumb, and slow agency that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars but has yet to nab a single terrorist, having instead permitted several to board international flights bound for the United States and to fly on domestic flights unimpeded.
In short, these key committees of the House of Representatives have published findings that should lead every reasonable person to conclude that TSA is an enormously costly failure, a classic boondoggle. TSA should be put out of its misery, replaced by competing private sector security firms possessed of better skilled personnel, better equipment, and a direct financial stake in protecting passengers from international and domestic threats.
TSA sprang to life with the pen stroke of George W. Bush on September 11, 2001. The Committee report summarizes TSA’s abysmal first decade: “Since 2001, TSA has spent nearly $57 billion to secure the U.S. transportation network, and TSA staff has grown from approximately 16,500 in 2001, to over 65,000 today, a near 400% increase. . . . TSA’s massive Washington headquarters supports 3,986 administrative personnel earning on average $103,852 per year. In addition, the agency continues to support an army of 9, 656 administrative field staff, on top of the security officers who actually conduct the physical screening.” Despite these expenditures, the GAO has found that TSA has been singularly incapable of preventing terrorists from boarding aircraft. The report recites: “GAO found that not one terrorist has been caught . . .” Indeed, GAO found that 17 known terrorists traveled on 24 different occasions through security at eight airports where TSA operated its Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program and in not a single instance did TSA agents stop the terrorists from boarding a plane.