The Weekly TSA Re-Org

July 13, 2016

It was yet another TSA reorganization story, but the lead grabbed my attention:

“The TSA is reorganizing its human capital office to place all human capital functions under the Office of the Human Capital Officer.”

The first two thoughts that spring to mind (after “duh”) are: what brought this on, and where was human capital hiding before now? The first question is answered by the reason given for some Congressional testimony: “The organizational change is designed to provide greater transparency on how issues of worker misconduct and employee bonuses are handled.” Aha. Transparency also means I can see right through you. The stated reason for the hearings was allegations of misconduct by TSA officers by a House subcommittee, who allege that claims filed against employees rose by 29 percent between 2013 and 2015.

The second answer is less clear: A quick web- check of the TSA organization chart finds no other personnel office anywhere in the TSA structure, with the possible exception of the Professional Responsibility Office whose function is stated as “ensuring consistency in misconduct penalty determination and an expeditious and fair adjudication process”. Once again, Aha… I feel a theme coming on.

The Human Capital Office has been there all along, with the stated mission of providing “strategic, sustainable, and comprehensive programs and services that attract, build and inspire a talented workforce.” … But apparently, somebody, somewhere in the food chain, didn’t read the memo. The Committee found 17,627 allegations of misconduct against TSOs; 1,270 employees had five or more complaints filed against them, with allegations ranging from failing to follow instructions, ignoring security procedures, sexually assaulting travelers and aiding drug smugglers.

Those 17,627 allegations of misconduct are the equivalent of one complaint against one in every three TSA employees, in fiscal year 2015. To be as fair as possible under the circumstances, that number of allegations for 47,000 screeners at 460 airports, dealing face-to-face with around 820 million angrily delayed passengers each year, gives the other 2/3 of conscientious TSA screeners a bad rap. Nonetheless, a 29 percent rise in disciplinary rates is unacceptable in any business environment, much less in a position of public trust where a single misstep can potentially cost hundreds of lives and massive economic chaos.

But I digress, while remaining confused. Unless I’ve missed a very important point, it appears the agency hasn’t changed anything at all in this grand navel-gazing announcement. During the other numerous recent reorganizations – and I’ve probably missed a few - people keep migrating in and out of just–emptied desks throughout the agency at a pretty fast clip, but if the job description isn’t taped to that little pull-out shelf, they don’t seem to know what to do … the committee discovered that even though the number of misconduct allegations grew, TSA conducted fewer investigations into the claims and took fewer disciplinary actions against employees. Folks: listen up: something has gone very wrong.

I’d like to speculate on a possibly related issue: there is also an abnormally high turnover of screeners who simply walk off the job at an average rate of about 115 every week… roughly 6,000/year, or 12.7 percent. Are they primarily just no longer thrilled with public service, or is some significant percentage of them more of the same above-discussed miscreants leaving before they get caught. This week’s Human Capital Officer might want to check to see if that bothersome issue is also on his/her pull-out to-do list.