Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Air Security Agency Faces Reduced Role

For those of you who believed TSA administration when they spoon fed you information that the TSA was not going to go private...You might want to read this article from April 2005.

Air Security Agency Faces Reduced Role
Stone Is Third Chief to Leave

By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 8, 2005; Page A01

The Transportation Security Administration, once the flagship agency in the nation's $20 billion effort to protect air travelers, is now targeted for sharp cuts in its high-profile mission.

The TSA has been plagued by operational missteps, public relations blunders and criticism of its performance from the public and legislators. Its "No Fly" list has mistakenly snared senators. Its security screeners have been arrested for stealing from luggage, and its passenger pat-downs have set off an outcry from women.

Under provisions of President Bush's 2006 budget proposal favored by Congress, the TSA will lose its signature programs in the reorganization of Homeland Security. The agency will probably become just a manager of airport security screeners -- a responsibility that itself could diminish as private screening companies increasingly seek a comeback at U.S. airports. The agency's very existence, in fact, remains an open question, given that the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security contains a clause permitting the elimination of the TSA as a "distinct entity" after November 2004.

"TSA, at the end of the day, is going to look more like the Postal Service," said Paul C. Light, a public service professor at New York University and a Brookings Institution scholar who has tracked the agency since its birth in February 2002. Light calls the TSA "one of the federal government's greatest successes of the past half-century" and likens it to the creation in the late 1950s of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which was also born during great public excitement to serve an urgent national need.

But the TSA's time in the spotlight is over, and it should now step back to serve a more narrow role, Light said. "It's a labor-intensive delivery organization that is not going to be making many public policy decisions. Its basic job is to train and deploy screeners," he said.

We need to step back and look at the billions of dollars we spent on the system, which doesn't provide much more protection than we had before 9/11," said Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), referring to tests conducted by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general that gave a "poor" rating to TSA screeners for their ability to catch weapons at checkpoints. Mica, a key lawmaker who helped write the law that created the agency and chairs the House aviation subcommittee, would like to see private contractors take over screening jobs at airports. "TSA was something we put in place in an emergency, but it needs to evolve. You could whittle TSA down to a very small organization and do a much better job."

Stone faces the challenge of keeping the TSA's workforce motivated. Many screeners took their jobs expecting that the new agency would provide a path to a federal career. At a recent hearing, Stone acknowledged that screeners suffer from low morale. According to an internal survey last year, 35 percent of employees are satisfied with their job.

No comments: