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TSA’s Bureaucratic Nightmare Spells Long, Hot Summer Ahead

May 21, 2016 Airport No Comments Email Email

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is warning air travelers across the United States to prepare for a long, hot summer as the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) inept bureaucracy shows yet again its inability to provide a safe and efficient experience at America’s airports.

Thus far, 2016 has been plagued by extraordinarily long lines for passengers going through TSA security checkpoints. American Airlines estimated that at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, the “nightmarish” lines led to 4,000 passengers missing flights at that airport alone since February. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson’sresponse was to tell passengers on May 13, 2016 to accept the new reality: “Contemplate increased wait times as you travel.” Secretary Johnson also assured air travelers that TSA would be asking airports for help with insignificant “nonsecurity” activities like moving the bins that carry laptops, shoes, and other items through scanners.

When colossal federal bureaucracies fall flat on their faces, the knee-jerk refrain from government officials is to blame outside elements like budget cuts or a smaller workforce. This blame shifting simply does not stand up to scrutiny for TSA, whose fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget of $7.3 billion is one billion dollars and 16 percent higher than in FY 2007. TSA’s full-time workforce roseby 4.3 percent over the last decade, even as air travel at major airports decreased. To date, 22 airports have dropped TSA and switched to more cost-effective, flexible, and efficient private alternatives. The massive lines of outraged passengers have caused airports in Atlanta, New York, and Seattle to announce they would like to privatize security as well.

Even as fewer passengers travel by air and TSA has fewer airports to manage, the overall effectiveness of screenings has fallen to dangerous levels. A June 1, 2015 DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) report found that undercover investigators were able to sneak “mock explosives or banned weapons” through security checkpoints in 95 percent of trials.

Rampant waste is also pervasive at the 15-year-old agency. A May 7, 2015 report found that TSA wasted $40 million when it was forced by public outrage to stop using invasive full body scanners in 2012. Now, 250 unused scanners are sitting in government warehouses in San Antonio. A November 3, 2015 OIG report found that TSA’s behavioral threat detection program, which has received $900 million since 2007, “is both expensive and ineffective. … TSA could not ensure that passengers were screened objectively, nor could it show that the program was cost effective or merited expansion.”

CAGW President Tom Schatz said, “The TSA’s recent troubles are a direct result of its own malfeasance and mismanagement, not budget or staff cuts. The agency’s storied history of chronic waste has been well documented by CAGW, countless news reports, and OIG investigations. No matter how TSA spins its failures, it remains a gigantic, inefficient, monopolistic federal bureaucracy. While well-intentioned, America’s post-9/11 experiment with a bloated federal aviation security agency should come to an end.”

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

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