Prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, airport security and screening was handled the private sector.
Since then, airport security has been handled by the Transportation Security Administration, an agency composed of a federal workforce to screen all commercial airline passengers and baggage, which was created as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act.
Today, this federal workforce is composed of more than 65,000 members, called Transportation Security Officers or TSOs. In more than 450 airports nationwide, TSOs screen approximately 1.7 million passengers each day.
Recently, the TSA, which has more than tripled in size throughout the last decade, has emerged as a fresh target for many members of Congress.
On Nov. 16, a report titled, “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform,” was released by the House Transportation Committee in conjunction with the House Oversight Committee, which they believe highlights a “decade of TSA mismanagement and failures.”
The report calls for a complete overhaul of current security agency. Some of its claims/findings include:
- TSA staff grown by nearly 400 percent, from 16,500 to more than 65,000 since 2001.
- TSA has spent nearly $57 billion to secure the U.S. transportation network throughout the last decade.
- More than 25,000 security breaches have occurred in the last decade, despite a massive presence.
- The TSA spent $39 million on 207 Explosive Trace Detection Portals, however only 101 were deployed because the machines “could not consistently detect explosives in an operational environment.”
- The TSA is sitting on approximately 650 state-of-the-art AT-2 carry-on baggage screening machines, totaling around $97 million in technology that have not yet been deployed.
“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,” wrote Chairman John Mica (R-FL).
In a response, the TSA wrote, “There is no doubt that America’s aviation system is safer, stronger, and more secure than ever. In the past decade, TSA established a highly trained federal workforce that has safely screened over 5 billion passengers, detected roughly 50 million prohibited items, and established a national standard of security from curb to cockpit.”
Republicans have argued that TSOs should not be allowed to unionize. However, the Obama administration has already allocated limited bargaining rights for TSOs. This is seen as a victory for the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, the two largest federal unions.