When it comes to love/hate relationships, Congressman John Mica seems to have a hate/hate relationship with the Transportation Security Administration. The Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee makes no secret of his desire to rid TSA of its nearly 50,000 transportation security officers (aka screeners).
“You all know how much I love TSA, the little bastard child that I created,” he often has said, regardless of the forum. “The bad news is that I created it after 9/11. The good news is that I’m now chairman and I’ll get ‘em.”
Mica wants to turn screening over to private companies under TSA oversight and pare down what he describes as a highly paid bureaucracy. He told the Washington Aero Club that the average salary at TSA headquarters is $104,913, and the TSA is now bigger than five other units of the federal government. Since its creation, Mica fumes, the TSA has gotten “totally, totally out of hand.” And he envisions getting the TSA out of the screening business entirely.
There already is little love lost between the lawmaker and former FBI deputy director John Pistole, the latest in the growing list of TSA administrators. When the TSA–and especially Pistole–deigned to appear before Mica’s transportation committee to explain why it has taken more than six years to create a congressionally mandated universal pilot’s license, Mica threatened to issue a subpoena. A paper nameplate for Pistole was displayed at the witness table throughout the 90-minute hearing, during which the FAA testified that it has published a proposed rule for creating biometric IDs.
“I can assure you,” Mica said, “we’ll have TSA testify at some point in the future, maybe in a joint hearing with Homeland Security. We’ve got to get some responsiveness from an agency that, for some reason, doesn’t want to respond.”
After the hearing, the TSA told the online publication Nextgov in a statement that Mica’s committee does not have oversight over the agency under the House’s own rules. “TSA reached out to chairman Mica to explain its reasons for declining the invitation, and looks forward to working with him and other members of Congress,” the agency said.
According to Mica, however, the TSA also refused to meet behind closed doors. “I’m not pleased with the performance of TSA,” he says. “I want to get them out of the screening business.”
Meanwhile, the latest license from the FAA does not even include a pilot photo, and TSA will not accept it as valid identification at airport security.