Unhappy Birthday, TSA

Bureaucracy turns 10

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In November, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) marked its 10th birthday. To celebrate, House Republicans released a report saying that the agency suffers from bureaucratic bloat, cost overruns, high staff turnover, mission creep, and a lack of preparedness. It was not, in other words, a happy birthday. 

"Since 2001, TSA staff has grown from 16,500 to over 65,000, a near-400 percent increase," the report notes. "In the same amount of time, total passenger enplanements in the U.S. have increased less than 12 percent." The agency has 3,986 administrative staff members at its D.C.-area headquarters and 9,656 administrators in the field, which means it employs as many paper pushers today as total staffers in 2001. 

As bloated as the TSA's ranks appear to be, more people have left the agency since 2002 than currently work there. Thanks to ads on pizza boxes, on billboards, and in bars and restaurants, roughly 137,000 people have passed through the agency's doors, costing $2.4 billion in fees paid to recruiting firms. 

While the TSA has grown to four times its initial size, the report says, passenger screening techniques have not become more effective. "More than 25,000 security breaches have occurred at U.S. airports in the last decade," it notes, "despite a massive TSA presence." 

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