Congressional report calls TSA 'bloated'

ByABC News
November 16, 2011, 8:10 PM

— -- The Transportation Security Administration is a bloated agency plagued by significant problems, says a congressional report released Wednesday on the 10th anniversary of the agency's creation. But an agency spokesman called the report a disservice to the workers.

According to the report, "A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform," TSA is:

•A bloated bureaucracy with 65,000 workers, including nearly 4,000 at headquarters and 9,656 administrators in the field.

•An ineffective agency, with 25,000 security breaches in the last decade.

•A sponsor of inadequate technology, including 500 advanced-imaging technology machines costing $122 million that are "easily thwarted" and $39 million wasted on explosive-detection "puffer" machines that were unreliable.

"Unfortunately, TSA has lost its way," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, at a news conference. "It is time for reform. TSA must become … a thinking, risk-based, flexible agency that analyzes risks, sets security standards and audits security performance."

But TSA spokesman Greg Soule said the agency has developed a highly trained workforce that has screened 5 billion passengers and prevented more than 1,100 guns from being brought onto planes this year.

"At a time when our country's aviation system is safer, stronger and more secure than it was 10 years ago, this report is an unfortunate disservice to the dedicated men and women of TSA who are on the front lines every day protecting the traveling public," he said.

TSA is developing risk-based security measures, such as an experimental pre-check program for frequent fliers to move more swiftly through screening at a handful of airports.

"Each of these initiatives … enhances our ability to provide the most effective security, focusing on those who present the highest risk, in the most efficient way possible," Soule said.

While Mica has become a vocal critic of the agency, others have been more supportive.

In a U.S. Travel Association survey, also out Wednesday, two-thirds of the 604 respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with TSA's overall performance; only one in eight were dissatisfied. But nearly nine out of 10 said it still takes too long to get through security.

The congressional report recommends:

•Elevating the TSA administrator's authority.

•Revising the luggage-screening program to allow more competition with private security companies.

•Reducing staff.