TSA’s Head of Security Forced Out over Airport Delays

airport lines

Kelly Hoggan, head of security operations for the Transportation Security Administration, has been forced out of his post amid mounting anger over airport delays, according to Fox News

“Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee expressed outrage in a May 12 hearing over a $90,000 bonus package Hoggan received, even after reports surfaced of systematic security screening failures at airports around the country. Those security lapses were detailed in a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report last year,” Fox News writes.

An internal memo obtained by NBC News said that Hoggan will be replaced by Darby LaJoye, currently a deputy assistant TSA administrator, who has previously worked as a top security official at L.A. International and JFK.

Congress has been asking how the titanic TSA bureaucracy managed to produce agonizing wait times – sometimes in excess of three hours – at formerly smooth airports. WNYC news reports over 400 American Airlines passengers missing flights in a single day in Chicago as security wait times passed three hours, while wait times at JFK are up 80 percent over the same period last year.

Even as wait times increase, the inefficiency of the TSA has become a national embarrassment. The Chicago Tribune recalls TSA agents failing to detect “explosives, weapons, and other dangerous items in more than 95 percent of covert tests at multiple U.S. airports.”

A variety of explanations have been offered by TSA brass, including a supposedly unexpected increase in travelers for the summer, a shortage of screening officers, and unexpectedly low interest in the PreCheck pre-screening program.

The situation has gotten so bad that WNYC reports JFK is using a private company to handle one of its terminals, “and other airports have told the TSA they will also hire outside help if lines don’t start moving.”

This will, no doubt, unleash a flood of panicked op-eds from Big Government liberals and union groupies explaining why airport security absolutely cannot be privatized again, no matter how badly the $7.5 billion TSA underperforms. It has already been amusing to watch official Washington pretend it is a baffling mystery why the same government that could not launch the billion-dollar ObamaCare website, or manage the Department of Veterans Affairs, can’t handle airport security, either.

WNYC interviewed a security specialist named Bruce Schneier who glumly predicted these ridiculous wait times are the “new normal.”

After pointing out that much of what we get from the TSA is mere security theater, reacting to years-old news events like the thwarted Shoe Bomber instead of current intelligence on actual threats, Schneier puts his finger on the real reason why the TSA is reform-proof:

This is actually hard, because [eliminating the TSA] is not just about the anxiety of the people, it’s the anxiety of elected officials. If you are Congress, and you say, ‘We don’t need this, we’re going to reduce the security requirements and go back down to pre-9/11 levels of security,’ and you get it wrong, you’re out of a job. It is always in their best interests to exaggerate the threats. So we’re kind of stuck in a loop.

Schneier suggested more funding for the TSA might alleviate the long wait times, but that runs contrary to the rest of his critique about a broken system that is pouring too many resources into the wrong things, including fat bonus packages for executives who preside over operational disasters, and are then kicked out of their jobs to placate angry congressmen.

Reports like those from WNYC and the Chicago Tribune talk about local officials taking effective action to alleviate the most serious problems, which raises the question of what purpose the federal TSA bureaucracy serves. In one report after another, the TSA comes off like an obstacle to be overcome, not a useful resource.

Also, some of the long wait situations are largely due to localized problems, such as terminals being shut down for renovation. It is hard to see how a top-heavy federal bureaucracy could be more effective at dealing with such challenges than local officials with their own resources.

Congressional oversight does not seem to be doing much to improve the TSA. The playbill from House Oversight hearings in 2012 looks just like the agenda for the hearings they are holding now. The same problems are detected, promises of reform are made, cries for more funding are uttered, and nothing improves.

The problems detected by the current round of hearings sound distressingly similar to what emerges from equally ineffective hearings about the Department of Veterans Affairs: there’s a “chilling culture of intimidation and retaliation” at TSA, “senior employees are not held accountable for misconduct,” integrity tests are gamed to make the agency look better, “exorbitant and wasteful” reassignments are used to “force out disfavored employees”… it seems like every agency of this Administration fails in exactly the same way.

Say this much for the TSA: it sent a symbolic head rolling faster than the VA did, and the agency head has not tried distracting from his failures by making lame cracks about the waiting times for Disneyland rides. Evidently the Obama Administration is more worried about irate air travelers than abused military families.


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