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“At TSA, a Deficiency in Common Sense is Resulting in an Abundance of Inefficiencies”

May 23, 2016
Press Release
Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

If you have ever walked through a security check point at an airport convinced that you have numerous ideas on how to improve the screening system you are observing, odds are that your instincts are spot on. Why is the 80 year old granny in a wheelchair being harassed? Why is the U.S. military service member in uniform with a military ID and military orders having his or her toothpaste confiscated? Why does it seem like no one at the check point has been delegated with that awesome yet shockingly absent power of common sense?

As the management and resource allocation issues rise that are plaguing the bureaucracy at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), red flags are going up and sirens are going off with the peak travel season nearly upon us. Some airline passengers are waiting over two or three hours just to get through security! Long lines will only get longer if TSA doesn't pursue a course correction.

The agency needs to escape its bubble and coordinate more with airport authorities and airlines to ensure staffing levels match peak travel times. A deficiency of common sense is resulting in an abundance of inefficiencies. When there is a long line and 4 out of 8 security lanes are being used, the TSA should open more security lanes. That is a predictable no brainer. 

TSA should also go easier on granny in the wheelchair and the service member in uniform, while also letting local well trained law enforcement take care of law enforcement duties, to free up more screeners to screen. 

The administration should also stop literally rewarding incompetence with cash bonuses. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recently hosted a hearing that included testimony about a top official receiving more than $90,000 in bonuses, despite an internal audit that showed that TSA screeners failed to detect investigators with fake weapons and bombs within the security line. The audit found that TSA screeners had failed to detect these weapons 95 percent of the time. There are also allegations that TSA employees who spoke up and reported problems were consequently reassigned to other airports. That is the polar opposite example of what accountability is supposed to look like.

Airlines can also help the cause by knocking off the madness with the hidden baggage fees. The tricks may help fill seats on planes, but it is also causing a massive headache with passengers choosing to bring more of their belongings through security check points rather than checking in baggage at the ticket counter.

The TSA cites issues with funding, but the agency has consistently received its requested level of funding from Congress on an annual basis. For fiscal year 2016, Congress even granted the TSA over $78 million above the agency’s request. This was an increase in funding from the prior year. Last year, the TSA actually returned $100 million to the U.S. Treasury in money they claimed wasn’t needed. 

No one wants to hear the TSA's excuses. Americans are just looking for a little more common sense and efficiency.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation, represents the First Congressional District of New York.