TSA

TSA Isn't Properly Maintaining Those Pornscanners

Wait. Maybe that's a good thing.

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TSA

I'll admit to mixed feelings as I read an inspector general's report from the Department of Homeland Security that points out the Transportation Security Administration's failure to develop a plan for maintaining all of its expensive toys. On the one hand, the agency is spending vast quantities of taxpayer dollars on pornscanners, luggage sniffers, and other assorted poking-and-prodding devices meant to make us feel us oh-so-safe in the hands of our protectors, but more likely to simulate the experience of cattle being checked for foot-and-mouth disease. Shouldn't it maintain the damned things? On the other hand… Modern air travel. Really, let the damned things rot.

You decide for yourself.

Anyway, the report notes that, last year, the TSA spent about $251 million to keep its advanced imaging technology imaging, its explosive detectors detecting, its bottled liquid scanners scanning, and so on. Actually, TSA has four maintenance contracts valued at a total of about $1.2 billion. That's a lot of fiddling and banging on the sides with a hammer. So everything is spiffy, right?

Maybe. Or maybe not. The TSA doesn't know.

TSA is not properly managing the maintenance of its airport screening equipment. The component has not issued adequate policies and procedures to airports for carrying out maintenance-related responsibilities. TSA also does not adequately oversee screening equipment maintenance. Therefore, TSA cannot be assured that routine preventive maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use.

Wait… The TSA spent a quarter of a billion dollars on maintenance contracts last year and isn't really sure whether it got anything for its money? Apparently so. The report notes that "TSA relies on self-reported data provided by the maintenance contractors and does not validate the data to confirm that required preventive maintenance actions have been completed."

It wouldn't even matter if the contractors reported that they wiped a couple of machines with a dirty rag and then went for beers. That's because "TSA's maintenance contracts do not include performance measurements for preventive maintenance or penalties that TSA can enforce if contractors do not perform preventive maintenance as required."

My old auto mechanic would love that arrangement. He's available, too, since I'm sure as hell not paying him anymore.

Hey, be happy you even saw this report! The TSA has a history of sitting on negative reviews. It also buys expensive equipment and then forgets about it, so that maintenance never becomes an issue. And nobody know if its procedures even work.

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  1. Support technician: “What is this? Why is there jizz all over the controls? I’m not working on this.”

  2. No one ever does regular routine maintenance. Maintenance contracts are only ever used for troubleshooting support, to make sure the vendor will respond when there’s a specific issue their product. Or maybe for upgrades.

    1. I don’t know about that. We had maintenance contracts on our AC and UPS inits, and the techs periodically showed up to swap out air filters, inspect the interior, replace old capacitors, etc. Since none of these resulted from a ‘fault’, I’d call that routine maintenance.

      At the other end of the spectrum, there was the Xerox tech – we had 13 year old printers that we’d run into the ground (but the state was too ‘cheap’ to replace) that failed so often that the xerox guy was practically onsite at least one workday a week. But, we paid that $20k/yr, so they kept sending the tech out. (eventually we replaced both printers for less than $50k, two years after we told them there was a 3 year ROI and they still didn’t want to shell out for a replacement unit)

      Where was I going with this?

    2. I think FoE is largely correct here, and it means this story is even worse.

      These machines are not being regularly maintained, and so they will likely develop glitches and failures which will mean lines shut down, people mistakenly detained and hassled, and ultimately bad people getting through them.

      Even worse, when these machines do go down because they weren’t serviced properly, they WILL be repaired, and possibly at costs not covered under the service plans if the provider determines that the requirements for preventative maintenance were not followed.

      And so we have more failures, more expenses and more danger and hassle. It’s like its a government program or something.

  3. The TSA should take a lesson from that art professor and just have everyone go through security in the nude. Then only the real fat-ass slobs and gunts would require extra screening to make sure they aren’t concealing anything in their rolls of flesh.

    Or if that’s not to people’s tastes, I’d still opt for being heavily sedated and shipped to my destination in some kind of box.

    1. A “box”? We call that a “sardine can”, or “aeroplane”, sir!

      1. And the sedation takes place in the concourse bar.

  4. Incompetence and waste, in a government agency?
    I’ll be on my fainting couch.

  5. I’d still opt for being heavily sedated and shipped to my destination in some kind of box
    series of tubes.

  6. This was actually always my biggest concern with the scanners. The privacy implications are bad enough, true, but how do we know they’re even physically safe? It’s a huge x-ray machine being operated and maintained by people with absolutely no training in radiology. Keep your cancer-matic away from me please.

    1. I would hope the engineers who design the things would have poka-yoke-ed out any chance of the operators being able to nuke you. That having been said, they’d have to really fuck up to dose you higher than the radiation exposure you’ll get over the course of your high-altitude flight.

      1. they’d have to really fuck up

        Oh, well, *that* could never happen.

        1. All it takes is one TSA screener going “Hey guys, I just noticed that if I turn this knob all the way up it makes the picture way sharper. I wonder why they had it set so low? What does ‘generator gain’ mean anyways?”

  7. Seeing as hemorrhaging money (into the waiting arms of cronies) is part and parcel of government, how can anyone be even slightly surprised at this any more? It’s literally one of the purposes of government.

    This is government. This is what you get if you want even a minimal one. Enjoy.

  8. Wait… The TSA spent a quarter of a billion dollars on maintenance contracts last year and isn’t really sure whether it got anything for its money?

    Rule number one of bureaucratic management: Never ask where the money went. You shouldn’t care. Just ask for more money because (and always say) “We’re seriously underfunded and understaffed.”

  9. They could save a lot of money by doing away with all this expensive equipment and instead outfit each airplane seat with mandatory restraints.

  10. I thought I read something last year that Obama had ordered the porn scanners shut down?

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