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Last July, members of the U.S. House of Representative Homeland Security Committee released a report with the disturbing title “MISCONDUCT AT TSA THREATENS
THE SECURITY OF THE FLYING PUBLIC“. Here are some disturbing excerpts from the report’s introduction:
TSA data shows that misconduct has grown over time—both before and after a watchdog investigation. For example, in 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that misconduct by TSA employees increased by almost 27% from fiscal year 2010 to 2012, and that TSA did not have the processes in place to adequately address it.
GAO recommended that TSA establish a process to review misconduct cases to ensure that airport-level staff complied with existing policies, issue guidance describing the process for recording misconduct data, track cycle times for investigating and adjudicating misconduct, and reconcile completed investigations with adjudication decisions. GAO also reported that Transportation Security Officers (TSO) engaging in misconduct raised security concerns because those were the very employees charged with helping to ensure the security of the nation’s aviation system….
Although TSA implemented these recommendations, recent TSA data shows that misconduct continued to grow by almost 29% from fiscal year 2013 to 2015.
What makes this part of the report so disturbing is that the reforms that the TSA implemented after 2012 would appear to have had no effect on the rate at which incidents of misconduct on the part of TSA employees increased.
Doing some quick math, for every 1,000 incidents of misconduct that were recorded in 2010, by the end of 2012, that number would have increased to 1,270, a 27% increase. By the end of 2015, with an additional 29% increase, the number of incidents of misconduct by TSA employees would have risen to 1,638, which represents nearly a 64% increase since 2010.
WXYZ 7 of Detroit, Michigan investigated the misconduct occurring at just Detroit’s Metro airport.
They also report:
Congressional investigators found misconduct is occurring “at all levels” of the TSA and that “bloated bureaucracy” within the agency has slowed accountability.
The number of allegations against employees has increased by nearly 30 percent in the last three years. Congress estimates this represents one in every three TSA employees.
Misconduct allegations are frequent and broad, but more serious is misconduct involving criminal action.
What is happening at the TSA is not just the result of a culture of corruption, but is rather the result of the institutionalization of corruption within the federal government department.
In that respect, what is going on at the TSA is no different from what has been happening at the Department of Veterans Affairs, where at least the U.S. Congress is taking steps toward imposing corrective actions:
H R 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016, passed in the House on September 14, 2016 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The bill was introduced by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)
The legislation provides for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other purposes. It changes how the Veterans Affairs Department disciplines and fires its employees and senior executives.
Because it is specifically focused on addressing the VA’s employee misconduct scandals, the bill just advanced for consideration by the U.S. Senate won’t address the worsening employee misconduct situation at the TSA.
That’s okay, because the VA’s employee misconduct problems do deserve special attention, where direct and quick action is warranted. However, the U.S. Congress should quickly turn its oversight activities toward addressing the similar situation at the TSA and at other federal government departments, where based on what we know today, the TSA would appear to deserve its own legislation to specifically address the growing ethical deficiencies of its employees and supervisors.