"A Call for TSA Reform": Congress Joint Majority Staff Report Released

A report by the House of Representatives in the United States recently released reveals a number of interesting findings and facts about the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, including the following:

  • TSA‘s behavior detection program, Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT), costs a quarter of a billion dollars to operate annually, employing almost 3,000 behavior detection officer full-time equivalents (FTEs). TSA has invested more than $800 million in this program since 2007, and it will require more than $1.2 billion more over the next five years. In spite of this costly program, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 17 known terrorists traveled on 24 different occasions through security at eight airports where TSA operated this program. In fact, GAO found that not one terrorist had been caught by the SPOT program, and the program has not been scientifically validated.

  • Since its inception, TSA has spent nearly $57 billion, and TSA staff has grown from 16,500 to over 65,000, a near-400% increase. During this time, passenger enplanements in the U.S. have increased less than 12%.

  • TSA warehouses are nearly at capacity, containing almost 2,800 pieces of screening equipment, including 650 state-of-the-art AT-2 carry-on baggage screening machines costing approximately $97 million. TSA‘s failure to deploy this cutting-edge technology in a timely manner is yet another example of the agency‘s flawed procurement and deployment program.

  • On average, there are 30 TSA administrative personnel—21 administrative field staff and nine headquarters staff—for each of the 457 airports where TSA operates.

  • Since 2002, TSA procured six contracts to hire and train its staff, for a total of more than $2.4 billion.17 This massive expense to the taxpayer was incurred to employ and train slightly more than 137,000 staff at a rate of more than $17,500 per hire.

Frankly, I find it appalling to have spent so many billions of dollars on methods of safety and security whose efficacy is unknown and unproven in an economy where people and businesses are struggling just to make ends meet. Are we really getting a satisfactory return on our investment? Is the cost really worth it? Is it possible for the United States to implement effective security at a fraction of the cost?
The entire report — as well as discussion amongst FlyerTalk members regarding the outcome and recommendations of the report — may be found here.

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