A new report from the House Homeland Security Committee says that growing misconduct inside of the Transportation Security Administration presents significant security risks to traveling Americans.
The report found that data from the TSA indicate that misconduct within the agency has continued to grow by almost 29% from fiscal year 2013 to 2015.
By way of example, in 2015, three TSA Federal Air Marshals in Chicago, IL, were accused of hiring prostitutes and using government funds to pay for hotels rooms to engage in sexual misconduct. One air marshal resigned and the other two were indefinitely suspended without pay while TSA is in the process of adjudicating the matter. TSA agents have also been caught smuggling drugs through airport security checkpoints.
The problem with these kinds of incidents, according to the report, is that in every instance that the TSA has to spend time and resources dealing with employee misconduct, that is time taken away from focusing on its core mission: providing security. TSA must go through a very bureaucratic process to discipline and remove employees, so consequently it can take a while to get rid of problem employees, plus it consumes more agency resources that could be used for security.
The report also notes that while the number of cases of employee misconduct at TSA have increased, the agency has taken fewer disciplinary actions. From fiscal year 2013 to 2015, TSA increased the use of non-disciplinary actions by almost 80%, while it decreased the use of disciplinary and adverse actions by 14% and 23%, respectively.
Part of this may be due to not having mechanisms in place to ensure that employees follow headquarters policies and guidance. The report notes that TSA needs to ensure that its policies and procedures for employee conduct generated by agency headquarters are implemented at a local level.
The House Committee went on to say that it was “alarmed” by the misconduct problems at the agency and the lack of response to effectively dealing with them. The report provided a list of recommendations for getting the situation under control, some of which included identifying a senior executive to oversee the misconduct process and conduct random spot checks of disciplinary and non-disciplinary actions taken by TSA for reported misconduct cases.