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Wed, Apr 09, 2003

TSA Has Answer for Everything

Waste and Mismanagement Rampant, Shows LA Times Article

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Mark Fineman, staff writers for the Los Angeles Times, reported earlier this week that, "...audit reports and interviews with investigators and lawmakers indicate that TSA may have wasted as much as $250 million."

They have answers for all that, though. When questioned why Air Marshals rent SUVs instead of normal vehicles, at an estimated additional cost of $200,000 per year, the answer was that Air Marshals need to reach remote shooting ranges.

The Times notes that, as an example, Charlottesville (VA) averages about 12 passengers per screener -- apparently even after the TSA fired 3000 extras it hired by mistake -- the government must really trust those Virginians, eh?

The article mentions the notorious sniffer machines: "From overstaffing rural airports to paying security companies at inflated rates to buying more than 1,000 baggage scanners built with dated technology for $1 million each, the agency let spending get out of control, critics charge. Some in Congress cite the TSA as a classic example of federal gold-plating, at a time when cities and states cannot afford to fund counter-terrorism needs."

The Times gets personal, as it talks with a pair of Congressmen: "'Millions, millions,' have been wasted, said Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House aviation subcommittee. 'We've been trying to get it under control.' Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), who heads the appropriations subcommittee responsible for the TSA's budget, has blasted the agency for 'budget estimates pulled from thin air' and 'wild funding swings.'"

Of course, when you are assigned an impossible task, and try to embellish it, and don't know what you're doing, and try to satisfy every politically-correct mandate, and are given no oversight by your boss (until recently, Norm Mineta, the DoT Secretary; now Tom Ridge of Homeland Security), you're going to run into a few problems. Add to that, the TSA's preoccupation with military, FBI, and SS men as "managers," and it's not hard to see that this militaristic agency is having a hard time staying in the bounds of civilian norms.

Over-hiring led to some over-spending; 'the rest was just wasted.'

Ricardo and Mark note, "The main contract last year for recruiting federal security screeners ballooned from an initial estimate of $100 million to about $700 million, according to the Transportation Department's inspector general. The escalation resulted partly from having to hire some 60,000 screeners instead of 30,000, as originally expected." The TSA's answer was to fire 3,000 of the extras...

A summary: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) noted in the article: "Nobody is saying they ought to eat peanut butter sandwiches and live in pup tents, but at a time when so many programs are being devastated, you've got to show you are being responsible with taxpayers' dollars."

Heather Rosenker, wife of the newest NTSB Board member (and recently-anointed Vice Chair), a TSA spokeswoman, told the reporters, "I think TSA has been an excellent steward of the taxpayers' money." She then admitted they didn't know what they were doing, as the TSA made promises and built budgets, and empire: "Nobody knew the magnitude of what we were getting into." [Especially the knee-jerks in Congress, who authorized this runaway train --ed.]

FMI: Times Article; www.tsa.gov

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