Controversial agency needs repair, not drastic reductions
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board Jun 11, 2012
In Congress, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is often a harsh critic of the Transportation Security Administration, the post-9/11 agency whose agents screen passengers at American airports.
As chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s transportation security subcommittee, Rogers, R-Saks, is altogether right to publicly examine the TSA’s effectiveness and seek solutions to what many Americans see as a failed agency. That agency, its critics proclaim, bloats government payroll and spends too much time screening young and elderly passengers who seem no threat to public safety.
In last Thursday’s TSA hearing in Washington, Rogers upheld his reputation as a top congressional watchdog of the agency. He peppered Administrator John Pistole with questions but did not call for the elimination of the TSA, the Birmingham News reported, even though that unrealistic option is tossed around by some members of Rogers’ party.
“For most people, you mention TSA and a light bulb goes off and people vent their anger,” Rogers said during the hearing, which The News described as “contentious.”
Among the items Rogers did mention was a possible 30 percent reduction of the TSA’s workforce — a move Pistole quickly rejected. Rogers asked if the TSA “could reduce the workforce of 46,000 screeners and still do the job?” Pistole responded: “No, I don’t agree with that. That’s a huge number.”
We agree with the administrator. The TSA screens passengers in more than 400 U.S. airports, many of which handle thousands of travelers each day. The agency’s mission is massive in scope. A 30-percent reduction in its screener workforce would be a mistake. A better option would be an expansion of the agency’s Pre-Check programs, which would expedite the screening process for the military and other qualified travelers. Rogers was wise last Thursday to call for that expansion.
Granted, the TSA’s short history has been plagued by missteps and bad publicity. There’s little doubt that the TSA has joined the Internal Revenue Service as one of the United States’ most disliked agencies. Well-publicized instances where young children, the disabled and the elderly have been harshly patted down — or worse — have damaged the agency’s public image. And the use of full-body screeners whose effectiveness remains in question has only heightened many Americans’ distrust of an agency designed to improve safety in travel.
Long airport security lines and unpleasant searches aren’t enjoyable, though the reality of the post-9/11 world calls for such strict measures.
Our suggestion to Rep. Rogers is to steer clear of discussions about deleting the agency, privatizing the service or drastically reducing the TSA workforce. Instead, we urge him to wield his influence on the House Homeland Security Committee and demand improved effectiveness within the TSA. Considering the consequences, that’s what Americans deserve.
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