Congress v. TSA. Again.

Oct. 10, 2018

Two recent related TSA stories grabbed my attention, because by their headlines they appear to show some cause and effect regarding how the public views TSA overall, both in its public hands-on functions and its bureaucratic management of the agency. My space here does not allow a detailed analysis, but I’ll provide an overview of both stories which originate with news sources typically not closely followed by mainstream media.

The first is a 120-page Majority Staff Report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform titled “Misconduct, Retaliation, and Obstruction at the Transportation Security Administration.” At first, I thought the story was about passengers who felt mistreated at the checkpoint. I was wrong; it’s almost exclusively about mid-level TSA management being mistreated by upper-level TSA management... “a toxic combination of unchecked misconduct by senior officials and retaliation against rank-and-file whistleblowers ... reflected in the agency’s astronomical attrition rates (as high as 20%) and abysmal ranking in a government-wide job satisfaction survey (#336 out of 339 agencies.)”

The report states that senior officials within the Transportation Security Administration engaged in recurrent misconduct with minimal consequences, inappropriately used involuntary directed reassignments to retaliate against disfavored employees and whistleblowers, and – under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of General Counsel (OGC) – withheld documents and information from Congress and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

The report outlines numerous examples, naming names in instances of misconduct by agency employees including offenses such as sexually inappropriate and racially offensive comments, use of directed reassignments to retaliate against whistleblowers, and withholding documents and information from Congress and the Office of Special Counsel in an effort to obstruct Congressional investigations. It’s not easy reading... A copy of the report is available at House Oversight Committee Report on TSA Misconduct

On the same day, another headline appeared: “It Should Be Easier to Privatize Airport Screening”. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced legislation (S. 3441), to loosen the rules for use of contractors to administer airport screenings, shortens the time frame for review and adjusts how cost comparisons are calculated.

So why isn’t it easier already? I’ll exercise the privilege of sitting here manning the keyboard, by speculating that there is a connection between story #1 above and story #2 below. There are some good business-case reasons for privatization at certain airports – not the least of which is: who wants to work at the 3rd-from-the-bottom of 339 worst Federal agencies with nasty bosses and a 20% attrition rate.