Those who travel through airports are certainly aware of all the procedures they must endure to board a flight, courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA has gone to great lengths to deflate many of the benefits of flying.
But it turns out those procedures aren’t the only things ruining your travel plans. A Government Accountability Office report in July showed that the 56,000-strong agency has seen incidents of misconduct leap by 26 percent over the last three years. Employees have been caught stealing luggage, sleeping on the job and — surprise — engaging in abusive behavior.
The GAO probe showed a jump in misconduct cases from 2,691 in 2010 to 3,408 in 2012. The largest portion of cases, about 33 percent, involved being late for work or not arriving at all. But perhaps the more alarming statistic: 20 percent of the cases involved screening and security failures. This from an administration charged first and foremost with providing transportation security. It’s in the agency’s name.
Among the security failures were instances of screeners providing VIP treatment for family members. The GAO report cited an incident in which a TSA agent carried a relative’s bag past security so that it wouldn’t get flagged for the numerous prohibited items inside. But that employee wasn’t even fired, instead receiving a seven-day suspension.
In fact, only 17 percent of the cases resulting in the employee separating from the TSA. Nearly half the cases resulted only in letters of reprimand.
The report comes out less than a year after the TSA became yet another government agency to unionize, which is almost never a good sign. The taxpayers already got to foot the bill for this often inept agency, and now that bill gets higher thanks to a typically generous labor deal that includes raises and leave benefits just for making it through another year on the job, regardless of performance, and stresses seniority over ability. If it were only that way for those of us in the private sector who pay the freight for the TSA.
All this and more continues to demonstrate that the federal government should not be in the business of transportation security. The TSA has consistently shown itself to be incapable of using common sense when dealing with travelers — treating 2-year-old toddlers and 77-year-old grandmothers as if they’re the next underwear bomber — and subjecting passengers to all manner of discomfort and embarrassment with over-aggressive patdowns and their “random” additional screenings that often border on groping.
Earlier this year at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, a 3-year-old girl confined to a wheelchair by spina bifida was detained by the TSA. An agent also took away the girl’s stuffed animal for good measure. Meanwhile, the agency’s own employees are catching cat naps, stealing luggage and helping their buddies skirt the security process. Such actions in the private sector would be met with a pink slip. It’s time to do just that with the TSA. It’s time to push harder for privatization of security, something currently offered by only a handful of the nation’s 450 airports. A private-sector company has plenty more incentive to do the job right at a lower cost, while actually providing, you know, transportation security.
A version of this editorial appeared August 6 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal