WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Transportation Security Administration has been without an administrator since 2007 and the minority leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is calling for a reorganization of TSA, saying it is “a bloated, ineffective bureaucracy.”
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) recently released a review of a TSA program known as SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques) conducted by the Government Accountability Office at Mica’s request. The Congressman said TSA spends hundreds of millions of dollars on SPOT, but has never scientifically validated the list of behaviors underpinning the program and never determined whether the techniques could be applied to counterterrorism or in an airport environment. In fact, the program has failed to identify known terrorists. Since the program’s inception in 2003, 17 known terrorists have traveled through SPOT airports on 23 different occasions. Although 1,100 people have been arrested, none were arrested for terrorism.
“TSA is a bureaucratic nightmare,” Mica declared, noting it has more than 60,000 employees and is top heavy with supervisory and administrative staff. In fact, at the Washington, D.C., headquarters, nearly one out of three employees is a supervisor. Mica has written to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressing the need for an immediate reorganization of TSA.
It is into this quagmire that the next TSA administrator will step — if and when confirmed by the Senate. John Pistole is the third person to be nominated by President Obama for the post. Pistole currently is deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Two previous nominees withdrew after revelations of possible misconduct.
General aviation groups have been quiet about the latest nominee. Normally, organizations rush to praise a nominee in hopes of generating goodwill for their causes. But after being burned twice, the attitude now is one of wait and see.
If confirmed, Pistole should be in office in time to make the final decisions on the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), which will set security regulations for aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or more. Decisions on that proposal are expected late this summer.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.