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House Oversight Committee Calls TSA to Task for Poor Management

WASHINGTON, DC – A joint congressional panel reported Wednesday that safety equipment costing taxpayers an estimated $184 million, which was purchased to screen airline passengers, is collecting dust in government warehouses.  The investigative report comes from the Republican staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Darrell Issa (Rep – CA) and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, headed by John Mica (Rep – FL).

The report, “Airport Insecurity: TSA’s Failure to Cost-Effectively Procure, Deploy and Warehouse its Screening Technologies”, reveals how 85 percent of about 5,700 security units is warehoused at a Transportation Security Administration facility in Dallas at a annual storage cost of $3.5 million.

Speaking at a hearing this past week, Representative Mica said, “The CIA uncovered terrorists’ latest modified underwear bomb plot, but TSA has repeatedly failed to effectively procure and deploy screening equipment that actually detects threats, and incredible amounts of its state-of-the-art technology is gathering dust in Texas warehouses. Significant reform is necessary to transform this bloated and inefficient bureaucracy into the effective security agency it needs to be.”

Representative Issa added, “This is not a security operation, but rather a recipe for waste and abuse.” The report from his committee detailed these and others issues on February 15th:

  • About 85 percent of the approximately 5,700 pieces of security equipment was stored for longer than six months; 35 percent had been stored for more than one year. One piece of equipment had been in storage more than six years.
  • There were 472 carry-on baggage screening machines in the warehouse, 34 percent of which had been stored for longer than a year.
  • The committee estimated the delayed deployment of TSA equipment “has resulted in a massive depreciated loss of equipment utility at an estimated cost to taxpayers of nearly $23 million.”
  • TSA had 1,462 explosive-trace detectors worth nearly $44 million in storage, far more than it could use in the 463 airports where TSA provides screening operations. When asked why the agency bought so many, agency officials said they needed that many in order to get a discount.

The 22-page committee report said the TSA “intentionally delayed congressional oversight of the Transportation Logistics Center (TLC) and provided inaccurate, incomplete, and potentially misleading information to Congress in order to conceal the agency’s continued mismanagement of warehouse operations.” The committee’s recommendations to TSA are aimed at making sure equipment is in fact needed before it is purchased.

The TSA claims such bulk purchases of equipment saved taxpayers money. It also says that machines kept in warehouses are there because airports aren’t ready to accept them.  “TSA is responsible for deploying and operating state-of-the-art security technology at over 450 airports across the nation. To fulfill its security responsibilities, TSA rapidly deploys technology to respond to changing threat information, and stand-up operations in locations affected by natural disasters and other crises,” said TSA spokesman Matthew Chandler.

“These factors and others require the agency to have a steady inventory of technology available to prevent supply disruptions from compromising aviation security. The overwhelming majority of all screening equipment that is currently in storage (nearly 80 percent) has been warehoused for less than a year,” he said. ”

But the House Oversight Committee doesn’t seem to be buying that explanation. The TSA has a consistent track record of agent abuses and poor management.

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