The Transportation Security Administration has been making news lately and not just for the long lines at airport security. Kelly Hoggan, has been removed from his position as head of the TSA after a hearing by the House Oversight Committee found the agency was being mismanaged. After three years at the helm, Hoggan will be replaced by current Deputy Assistant Administrator, Darby LaJoye.
Complaints about slow lines and missed flights due to security delays are part of a growing problem under Hoggan’s watch, but complications in the field aren’t the only concern. In one year between November, 2013 and November, 2014, Hoggan essentially approved for himself more than $90,000 in bonuses despite “significant security vulnerabilities” according to the committee. The bonuses were doled out in $10,000 increments.
In addition to new leadership, Congress has given the TSA authority to hire nearly 800 new employees. The additional screeners, including canine teams, and marketing an $85 expedited pre-check screening program will hopefully address congested conditions found in airports across the U.S.
One reason used to explain security delays is the growing gap between the number of travelers and the number of security agents. Since 2013, the total of TSA officers has dropped approximately 10% while fliers have increased by approximately 15%. Hiring some 800 TSA officers will close that gap, though it might help some security lines move faster. But finding well-qualified people to fill the empty slots may be problematic.
A full-time TSA agent earns roughly $2,500 per month, not a lot for a job that that carries big responsibility and often requires workers to deal with the non-security related frustrations of passengers. And it’s not just irate travelers TSA agents have to contend with. Being a TSA officer comes with serious risks. In 2013, TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez was killed at LAX by a gunman targeting security personnel.
Even with the new hires, expect to wait in long security lines if you’re traveling by plane this summer. And try to remember no matter your opinions about Homeland Security or the process airport security has become, TSA officers are just working men and women trying to do the job they were hired for.