WASHINGTON – House Republicans lambasted the Transportation Security Administration for repeated instances of alleged employee misconduct at airports across the nation, calling the violations “alarming and unconscionable.”
The Homeland Security Committee released a report July 7 in conjunction with a joint hearing of the committee’s Oversight and Transportation Security subcommittees. It found that while the number of misconduct allegations increased by nearly 30 percent from 2013 to 2015, the TSA conducted fewer investigations of the allegations. The subcommittees’ report criticized the TSA for creating a “misconduct industrial complex” and misguided “top-heavy” bureaucratic system that cripples the agency’s ability to address instances of misconduct.
“Egregious misconduct occurs across all levels of TSA, from the bottom to the top,” Homeland Security Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., said at the hearing. “What TSA has done is create a bloated bureaucracy without any real substance to process these conduct issues.”
The report outlined the notable misconduct violations recorded by the agency, ranging from widespread absenteeism to more troubling ethics violations such as lax security screening, sexual assault of airport visitors and human trafficking.
New York Republican Rep. John Katko, chairman of the Transportation Security subcommittee, said he was concerned about lapses in TSA security operations, which included a drug trafficking ring orchestrated by airline workers at Dallas-Fort Worth airport.
“One of the things that’s particularly concerning to me is that a visitor to an airport get screened at an exponentially higher degree of intrusion than individuals that we’re trusting with access,” Katko said.
Subcommittee Democrats noted that a majority of the reported misconduct violations related to absenteeism and tardiness. In Office of Personnel Management job satisfaction surveys, the Department of Homeland Security has been among the lowest rated in job satisfaction and employee morale.
“The performance and morale of TSA personnel should be of utmost importance,” New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee, said. “However, many of the frontline employees, the Transportation Security officers, are short staffed and are often asked to work multiple shifts.”
In March, the Homeland Security Department named Huban Gowadia deputy administrator of TSA. She had been director of DHS’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office for three years.
Gowadia said she would use her engineering background to focus on analyzing misconduct data to more actively identify and combat trends in problematic conduct.
A spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Committee said it will continue to follow up with the TSA on “the extent to which they will implement the recommendations” made by the GAO.