John Pistole, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has started returning fire from Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who has declared war on the TSA.
“[To] those who say that we’re inefficient or bloated, I’d be glad to sit down and go through the books and say, ‘OK, how would you staff this differently?’” Pistole said in an interview with Bloomberg News last month.
Pistole told Bloomberg that he has frozen hiring for some administrative positions and wants an unspecified number of people in the Washington area to leave through early retirement. He said he combined positions in information technology and training and will eliminate six out of 12 high-level management positions.
Mica, who helped write the law that created the agency, calls the TSA a bloated bureaucracy whose initials stand for “Thousands Standing Around.” Mica wants to reduce the size of the agency and remove it from under Department of Homeland Security.
And he is gaining some allies in his attack on the TSA. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, helped Mica engineer a study of the TSA by House Republican staff that described the agency as a “mismanaged failure” and called for an outside audit, as well as internal reform.
Then early last month, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote a letter to Pistole accepting his offer to “sit down and go through the TSA’s books.”
“I hope that Administrator Pistole makes good on his word and does in fact sit down to hear me out,” said Congressman Broun. “Over the past 10 years, the TSA has spent almost $57 billion and grown to nearly 65,000 employees. As a result, the government has had to dedicate too much time and money to managing personnel and human resources, rather than using their function to fight terrorism and enforce security measures.”
In the interview with Bloomberg News, Pistole contended that airports are “optimally staffed,” but he allowed “there’s something to” the arguments by Mica and Broun that the agency’s administrative staff of 4,000 in the Washington area could be thinned.
The agency’s workforce grew 6 percent last year to a record 54,831 full-time equivalent positions, the fastest rate since at least 2005, according to budget documents. Pistole requested another 3,570 positions for this fiscal year.
“While your agency was originally intended to disseminate intelligence information and establish security standards,” Broun wrote, “over the last 10 years, it has morphed into a full-time, massive bureaucracy that is larger than the U.S. Departments of Labor, Energy, Education, House and Urban Development and State combined.”