The Transportation Security Agency (TSA), created in 2001 following the
9/11 terrorist attacks, was intended to be a lean security agency with
the flexibility to quickly respond and adapt to potential threats of
terrorism. Instead TSA has mushroomed into a massive, inflexible,
backward-looking bureaucracy of more than 65,000. Over its first ten
years of existence, the agency and its numerous failures have cost
taxpayers $57 billion.
TSA is a top-heavy agency in need of reform. Its ranks include 3,986
headquarters staff in Washington, DC making $103,852 per year on
average, and 9,656 administrators in the field. The agency's primary
objectives should be setting security standards, overseeing security
performance, and analyzing intelligence, but it has become too focused
on maintaining and growing its own bureaucracy. This is an agency that
needs to get out of the personnel management business and into the
Passenger Screening Reform -- Private-Federal Screening Model Is More
Efficient & Cost-Effective, and Could Save Taxpayers $1 Billion
One key reform necessary to ensuring TSA becomes a better security
agency and stops throwing away taxpayers' money is expansion of the
program that allows airports to “opt out” of federal security screeners
and instead use certified private screeners under federal standards,
supervision and oversight.
The original law creating TSA included this program that utilizes the
private-federal screening model, known as the Screening Partnership
Program (SPP). Last year, however, TSA arbitrarily decided to halt the
expansion of this program.
An important provision included in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act
of 2012 (H.R. 658), a bill introduced in the House by Chairman John L.
Mica and signed into law in February 2012, restarts the SPP program and
allows airports the continued option of selecting the more
cost-effective private-federal screening model. Click here for more
information about this potentially cost-saving provision included in the
In order to ensure TSA complies with the law, Chairman Mica, Oversight
and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, and National
Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman
Jason Chaffetz on March 13, 2012 wrote to TSA Administrator Pistole,
putting the agency on notice that they expect TSA to implement the law's
reforms ensuring airports can opt out of all-federal security screening.
(Click here for the press release.)
Mica also wrote to the nation's approximately 200 busiest airports
informing them of their right to opt out of all-federal passenger
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and others have shown the SPP
model of screening to be as effective or more effective than the all-TSA
model. When TSA used a flawed cost analysis in order to justify shutting
down this program, GAO reported that TSA ignored critical data related
to costs. A 2011 Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
investigative report entitled "TSA Ignores More Cost-Effective Screening
Model" evaluates costs in a more comprehensive and accurate manner than
previous TSA cost estimates. The Committee's report demonstrates that
the private-federal model is 65% more efficient and would increase
taxpayer savings by at least 42%. According to the report, if the
nation’s top 35 airports opted out, taxpayers would save $1 billion over
A Decade of Costly TSA Missteps
Every day, new headlines recap the latest misstep in TSA's ten-year
history. Click here to read “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform,” a
report prepared by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and
the Oversight and Government Reform Committee highlighting a decade of
TSA mismanagement and failures. The report was released on November 16,
2011, ten years after Congress passed the legislation establishing TSA,
and calls for dramatic reform of the nation’s bloated transportation
"Unfortunately, TSA has lost its way. TSA must become the kind of agency
it was intended to be – a thinking, risk-based, flexible agency that
analyzes risks, sets security standards and audits security
performance." -- Chairman John L. Mica
TSA's poor performance over the last ten years clearly demonstrates the
need for reform. Click here for a fuller account of how TSA failures are
costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
TSA Wastes Over $200 Million Every Year on Flawed Behavior Detection
The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) failure to implement
an effective behavior detection program for aviation security costs
taxpayers approximately $212 million every year. While a properly
developed behavior detection program has the potential to provide a
valuable layer of security, as it does in some countries, TSA's poorly
tested and deployed program, known as the SPOT program, has proven to be
expensive and ineffective.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), TSA never
scientifically validated the SPOT program, never determined whether the
techniques could be applied for counterterrorism or in an airport
environment, and never conducted a cost-benefit analysis.
The program's ultimate failure is that it has not identified a single
known terrorist. GAO reported that since the program’s inception, at
least 17 known terrorists have traveled through eight SPOT airports on
23 different occasions, including Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square
TSA Has Failed to Approve Biometric Technology for Pilots or Port
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) are responsible for the continued failure
to develop a commercial pilot's license with biometric capabilities.
Requirements for an approved pilot's license were passed by Congress in
2004 and have yet to be fulfilled by the agencies. The federal
government has wasted millions of dollars on upgrading licenses that
still do not meet Congressional requirements.
TSA has also failed to fully implement a Transportation Worker
Identification Credential (TWIC) for maritime transportation workers.
TWIC is intended to protect the nation’s port and maritime
transportation systems, but the GAO has uncovered serious flaws and
weaknesses in this program.
Development of the TWIC was required in the Maritime Transportation
Security Act of 2002. After years of delay and nearly half-a-billion
dollars in costs, TSA finally began issuing TWICs in 2007. However, the
agency still has not approved a technology to read the biometrically
enabled credentials. Without an approved reader, the TWIC is little more
useful than an expensive library card. Each TWIC costs port employees
$132.50, and many of these cards will expire and have to be purchased
again before they are truly functional.
more troubling, The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported
that a TWIC can be fraudulently obtained. According to TSA, hundreds of
millions of dollars has been spent on the TWIC Program. In 2007, the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated that the combined cost
to the federal government and the private sector may reach $3.2 billion
over a ten-year period – not taking into account the full cost of
implementing and operating readers. Despite these significant costs, GAO
has reported that the TWIC program was poorly tested and evaluated
before deployment began. Click here for more information.
Although TSA can't get it right, biometric identification cards are not
a new technology for government agencies. The U.S. Department of
Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy and most nuclear power plants
regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) employ biometric
technologies in access control, as does the New York Police Department.
Members of the Committee and Congress will continue to work to reform
and reduce the size of the massive TSA bureaucracy, support a risk-based
approach to security that maximizes the effectiveness of this critical
agency, and seek additional ways to improve the TSA’s ability to protect
our transportation systems.