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On Wednesday, while the Obama administration was taking credit for thwarting the latest attempt by al-Qaida to blow a jetliner out of the sky, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (T&I) and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) released a damning report revealing that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “rushed to install” the highly vaunted full-body scanners in the nation’s airports despite the reality that officials have known for years that the machines were incapable of stopping a terrorist wearing an “underwear” bomb.
The 21-page report titled “Airport Insecurity” sheds a lot of light on the kind of bureaucratic waste, inefficiency and arrogance that has become a hallmark of the Obama administration in general, and the TSA in particular. Among its key findings were “Major TSA Procurement and Deployment Failures,” including a $30 million expenditure to procure 207 “puffers” that ostensibly detect explosives — only to discover after the fact that they did not do so in an “operational environment,” even as they were “ignoring internal procedures designed to prevent this type of waste.”
Lesson learned? “Failing to learn from its failed procurement of ‘puffers,’ and in the wake of the Christmas Day Bomber, TSA rushed to install 500 Advanced Imaging Technology devices, without clear evidence of effectiveness, at a cost of more than $122 million,” the report reads. The agency also employed Advanced Imaging Technology Devices despite a Government Accountability Office GAO report noting that it remained “unclear” as to whether or not “the AIT would have been able to detect the weapon Mr. Abdulmutallab used in his attempted attack” on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas 2009.
Despite these concerns, the TSA acquired another 378 and still has plans to buy nearly 1,000 more in the next two years–despite the fact that studies dating back to 2010 revealed the scanners did not work as advertised. “GAO has estimated increases in staffing costs alone, due to doubling the number of AITs that TSA plans to deploy, could add up to $2.4 billion over the expected service life of the AITs,” says the report.
It also accused the TSA of “failing to deploy in-line Explosive Detection Systems in a cost-effective and risk-based manner.” EDS technology is used to screen baggage, and the report indicates that their successful deployment could reduce the number of required baggage screeners “by as much as 78%” Reality check? “However, despite the potential security and economic benefits of in-line baggage screening, GAO found that TSA is struggling to upgrade its deployed fleet of checked baggage-screening machines and that some of TSA’s deployed machines are detecting explosives at standards promulgated in 1998.” In other words, like any other bloated government bureaucracy, the TSA is taking its time in order to keep as many unnecessary workers on the government payroll as long as possible.
Yet inefficiency is only part of the problem, as the lengthy title of another critical section in the report reveals. “TSA Intentionally Delayed Congressional Oversight of the Transportation Logistics Center and Provided Inaccurate, Incomplete, and Potentially Misleading Information to Congress in Order to Conceal the Agency’s Continued Mismanagement of Warehouse Operations,” it reads. The report contends that the TSA’s willful delays, including a failed attempt to hide the disposal of approximately 1,300 pieces of equipment, even as the agency knowingly provided inaccurate warehouse inventory reports to congressional staff during an investigative visit, could amount to a violation of the law.
Members of Congress were not amused. “TSA continues to demonstrate its penchant for bungling aviation security and wasting taxpayers’ money,” said T&I Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL). “The CIA uncovered terrorists’ latest modified underwear bomb plot, but TSA has repeatedly failed to effectively procure and deploy screening equipment that actually detects threats, and incredible amounts of its state-of-the-art technology is gathering dust in Texas warehouses. Significant reform is necessary to transform this bloated and inefficient bureaucracy into the effective security agency it needs to be.”
OGR Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) echoed that sentiment. “Money spent on equipment sitting in a warehouse in excess is money not spent on the front lines,” he said. “Systematic flaws in the procurement and deployment systems at TSA continue to plague the agency. These flaws are exacerbated by a management structure that seems content to throw millions of dollars at untested solutions that are bought in excess and poorly deployed and managed. This is not a security operation, but rather a recipe for waste and abuse.”
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