SEPTEMBER 21, 2011
The federal lawmaker who helped create the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) a decade ago is calling to dismantle and privatize the scandal-plagued agency which has been marred by a series of shameful lapses despite receiving unlimited resources from Congress.Created after the 2001 terrorist attacks mainly to protect aviation, the 60,000-employee TSA has been the subject of numerous federal probes that have blasted it for its many blunders. Just last week the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), released the latest in a series of reports reminding the TSA that “additional efforts are needed to improve security.” That’s putting it mildly.The TSA’s mishaps are vast. They include clearing illegal immigrants to train as pilots and work in sensitive areas of busy U.S. airports, inept agents who let weapons slip by security checkpoints and agents prosecuted for stealing from passengers. Earlier this year a government audit revealed that the TSA failed to detect terrorists at U.S. airports on nearly two dozen occasions. In each case the terrorist slipped right through “security” checkpoints and boarded commercial planes.This was particularly shameful because the agency had been using a heavily touted program, known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT), that cost taxpayers nearly $212 million and the Obama Administration had already asked for more money ($232 million) to keep it going. Making matters worse, the TSA’s highly specialized Behavior Detection Officers failed to stop terrorists from boarding planes in facilities that rank among the top 10 highest risk on the agency’s own Airport Threat Assessment list.This is just a sampling of the TSA’s many problems over the years. No wonder the Florida congressman (John Mica) who authored the legislation that established the bloated agency is calling to dismantle it and privatize screeners, pointing out that it’s a $9 billion enterprise that has “failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years.” Mica, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said this on the record during a recent interview with a political news site.Last year the congressman referred to the TSA as a “bureaucratic nightmare” top heavy with supervisory and administrative staff. More than 7,000 supervisors and 3,526 administrators make an average annual salary that exceeds $100,000, Mica has revealed in the past. The bottom line, according to the congressman; the massive bureaucracy cannot effectively ensure the safety of the U.S. transportation system.
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