If the Transportation Security Administration is going to destroy expensive medical equipment and so infuriate airline passengers with intrusive faux security that they strip naked in protest, I think we have the right to demand that the agency do so efficiently. Gross incompetency and civil liberties violations really can be done on the cheap, you know. So, it's disappointing to peruse a report by Republican staffers from two key House committees detailing wasteful spending, unused and warehouse equipment, and amateurish efforts to dodge accountability by the TSA in the course of its efforts to pretend to protect us from bad guys.
Released Wednesday, Airport Insecurity: TSA's Failure to Cost-Effectively Procure, Deploy and Warehouse its Screening Technologies (PDF), was compiled by the majority staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Among its findings is that the agency charged with making air travel (and so much more) such a hassle "is wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars by inefficiently deploying screening equipment and technology to commercial airports," and that, when the staffers came a-calling to see just what all this nifty and very expensive equipment was doing gathering dust, "TSA intentionally delayed Congressional oversight of the Transportation Logistics Center and provided inaccurate, incomplete, and potentially misleading information to Congress in order to conceal the agency's continued mismanagement of warehouse operations."
- Committee staff discovered that 85% of the approximately 5,700 major transportation security equipment currently warehoused at the TLC had been stored for longer than six months; 35% of the equipment had been stored for more than one year. One piece of equipment had been in storage more than six years – 60% of its useful life.
- As of February 2012, Committee staff discovered that TSA had 472 Advanced Technology 2 (AT2) carry-on baggage screening machines at the TLC and that more than 99% have remained in storage for more than nine months; 34% of AT2s have been stored for longer than one year.
- As of February 15, 2012, TSA possessed 1,462 [Explosive Trace Detectors] in storage in its TLC warehouses. At approximately $30,000 per ETD, TSA's purchases equate to nearly $44 million dollars in excessive quantities of ETD machines.
- 492 of the ETDs had been in storage for longer than one year.
The report charges that TSA administrators tried to put off investigators when they inquired into the why and wherefore of all of that stockpiled equipment, but that they weren't even efficient about the coverup. "TSA willfully delayed Congressional oversight of the agency's Transportation Logistics Center twice in a failed attempt to hide the disposal of approximately 1,300 pieces of screening equipment from its warehouses in Dallas, Texas, prior to the arrival of Congressional staff." In particular, "[d]uring interviews with TSA warehouse staff, Committee staff learned that TSA had disposed of almost 1,300 pieces of screening equipment … the week of the warehouse visit and that the warehouse staff was actively removing the remainder of the equipment scheduled for disposition from the TLC the morning of the Congressional review." Investigators were actually told the warehouse crew had been working so hard to empty the place in advance of the visit that they'd been given the day off.
At only 22 pages, the report is worth a look, just for a glimpse at how your tax dollars are managed.
More of Reason's coverage of the TSA here.