WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) awarded contracts for $50 million of new uniforms just two days before automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as sequester, and Representatives Jason Chaffetz (Rep-UT) and John Mica (Rep-FL) want an explanation.
Less than two weeks after the uniform purchases, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned of long lines at airports due to sequester-related furloughs of TSA agents.
In a letter to TSA Administration John Pistole, Chavez wrote, “The rationale behind the timing of TSA’s uniform contract and other uncertainties surrounding the contract award raise concerns.” Representative Chavez is chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security.
The lawmakers sent the letter on March 28 to Pistole, requesting documents related to the uniform contract and a committee briefing on the issue as soon as possible. “Recent news stories state that the TSA agreed on a deal [in February] worth as much as $50 million to buy new uniforms for rank-and-file agents, despite concerns that imminent budget cuts would result in furloughs and 90-minute flight delays” said Chaffetz and Mica.
“Just days within the enactment of sequestration, Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano commented on sequestration’s effects on airport security operations,” they said. On March 4, Napolitano said, “We are already seeing the effect on the ports of entry, the big airports for example. Some of them had very long lines this weekend.”
The oversight committees are asking the TSA if “any consideration” was made to postpone the contract in light of the impending sequester. Congress is also wants to know what percentage of the uniforms will be made in the country in light of the “Buy America” provision.
“Some reports indicate that VF Imagewear’s uniforms are partly made in Mexico,” Chaffetz and Mica said. CNSNews.com has reported that the TSA has confirmed that the uniforms will be “manufactured in the U.S. and Mexico.”
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the TSA is mandated by law to acquire uniforms made in the United States. However, uniform products made in Mexico, Canada, or Chile must also be considered due to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Chilean Free Trade Agreement.
The TSA has also come under examination from Representative Marsha Blackburn (Rep – TN) who said it is “deeply disturbing” that DHS Secretary Napolitano would talk of furloughing employees while spending up to $50 million on new uniforms, which amounts to about $1,000 per the agency’s 50,000 employees.