A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) investigated and adjudicated approximately 9,600 cases of employee misconduct from fiscal years 2010 through 2012 has created controversy - and a Congressional probe of the TSA's policies and effectiveness.
The GAO said that according to TSA employee misconduct data that the GAO analyzed, two offense categories accounted for about half of all cases--(1) attendance and leave, which accounted for 32 percent; and (2) screening and security, which accounted for 20 percent.
"Charges for screening and security-related incidents pertain to violating standard operating procedures, including not conducting security or equipment checks, and allowing patrons or baggage to bypass screening," GAO said.
"Of the cases that we analyzed, 47 percent resulted in letters of reprimand, which describe unacceptable conduct that is the basis for a disciplinary action; 31 percent resulted in suspensions of a definite duration; and 17 percent resulted in the employee's removal from TSA. The remaining cases covered a variety of outcomes, including suspensions of an indefinite duration, " GAO said.
GAO reported weaknesses in four areas related to monitoring of employee misconduct cases: (1) verifying that TSA staff at airports comply with policies and procedures for adjudicating misconduct, (2) recording case information on all adjudication decisions, (3) tracking the time taken to complete all phases of the investigations and adjudications process, and (4) identifying allegations not adjudicated by the agency.
TSA employs approximately 56,000 transportation security officers (TSO) and other TSA personnel to ensure the security of the traveling public at more than 450 TSA-regulated airports nationwide, the GAO said.
"News stories in recent years have highlighted several high-profile allegations of misconduct by TSA employees, including TSOs being involved in theft and drug-smuggling activities, as well as circumventing mandatory screening procedures for passengers and baggage. For example, in 2011, a TSO at the Orlando International Airport pleaded guilty to federal charges of embezzlement and theft for stealing more than 80 laptop computers and other electronic devices, valued at $80,000, from passenger luggage. TSOs engaging in misconduct raise security concerns because these employees are charged with helping to ensure the security of our nation's aviation system," GAO said.
The GAO report sparked Congressional hearings by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into TSA employee misconduct and ways to improve TSA performance. The TSA is a unit of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).