You’re Just As Likely to Die at the Checkpoint as Get Fired By the TSA

The TSA has literally only fired one executive in 5 years. It’s easier to get fired as a teacher in the New York City Public Schools system.

Of all the TSA executives who have left the agency in the last 5 years, only one was fired. That’s the same number of executives who died while still employed by the agency.

The firing, by the way, didn’t happen after it was discovered that the TSA was missing 95% of the contraband going through the checkpoint. Instead, it happened in 2012. After the TSA’s gargantuan failures were reported, nobody was fired. After 1000 passengers from a single airline at one airport missed flights in a single month due to security delays, nobody was fired.

TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Tocqueville)

There are no consequences for failure. Instead the agency demands – and receives – more resources.

When the TSA’s Assistant Administrator for Security Operations was replaced this week, it wasn’t the failures of ‘screening operations’ that did it, it was the $90,000 in bonuses paid out to him in 13 months despite being under a bonus cap of $10,000 per year. What in the world were bonuses being paid to the person in charge of this mess at all?

John Pistole, former TSA Administrator, went on TV last night defending the agency’s performance as precisely what you get when you balance security and efficiency — and justified that because of EgyptAir flight 804, using the tragedy to advance a bureaucratic agenda despite no clear cause at this point.

The agency needs to be relieved entirely of its checkpoint screening duties. The agency is fundamentally broken — and it’s no surprise that’s the case, because it is its own regulator.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. George bush’s agency. Proves that neo cons are morons and they can come up with really stupid ideas.

    Or they are smart but are scum that will push ideas that let’s them leech money from the country.

  2. Very few executives ever get fired whether they are government or private sector employees. Many get re-assigned or are given the option to resign/retire.

  3. “There are no consequences for failure. ” That pretty much sums up government, except when it fails they throw more money at the problem to see if it that works, it never does.

  4. What happens historically with privatization is that in order to carve 30% profit out of the fixed pie, they screw workers or cut corners. No other outcome ever happens, except when the contract limits their profits for this reason.

    So privatization is not a viable option here or anywhere else where the public safety and commons is at stake, whether the Ayn Rand acolytes want you to believe that as their life mission or not (that’s why all the girls got up and moved away from them in college classes).

    I am the grumpiest complainer you’ll ever meet at gross inefficiency, but honestly in flying monthly for 40 years I have no complaints about TSA and they are one of the few agencies I often stop to thank for their service since my life truly depends on them doing what it is they do.

  5. @Gary Leff – except that when the airlines had it, they cut costs and paid minimum wages – did you ever consider that was why it was less expensive? The TSA isn’t perfect by any means – but I agree with @Greg here. I’ve never had an issue with the TSA. I opted out of the Michael Chertoff death-ray machines and the secondary screening was always quick and polite. Yes, certainly much of it is “security theater” – but that isn’t because of the TSA – that is because people and the media get freaked out over some buffoon trying to light their shoe and demand the TSA do “security theater” to make everyone feel safer. Regarding their “firing” practices – did you ever consider that was because their turnover is atrociously high? It is kind of hard to fire people when people are quitting left and right. The bottom line is if you want good employees, you have to be willing to pay for them. If you want the TSA to do their mission, tell congress and the media to stop micro-managing them and let them do their job.

  6. Not sure what Greg is smoking. I have been nearly arrested 5 times, both domestically and by DHS agents internationally. Why? Because when I see common sense fly out the window, I take umbrage and they cannot stand to have their stupidity recognized. I will never back down. I wish a few more sheep would join me from time to time. One man actually did a few days ago at MHT. That was a first!

  7. @Gary,
    The primary reason it became more expensive was that once the government took over, billions were spent on enhanced scanning equipment to replace the basic metal detection devices the airlines & airports were willing to pay for. Right after 9-11, most of us that traveled on a regular basis were surprised that making jetliners into missiles did not occur sooner due to the lack of any meaningful screening.

  8. @Gary – I thought this would be more about the culture of corruption and retribution at the TSA, not a curious focus on firing people for failing.

    Firing isn’t always the answer. Boom. Your argument falls to pieces. However, focus on showing me the failings, make a case for the underlying root cause, tell me why your answer is the best answer available… there are so many facets to explore. Don’t limit yourself, Gary. There are tons of reasons to hate the TSA and wish they didn’t exist. 🙂

  9. Gary do you mean they professionalized instead of hiring minimum wage security guards, often pregnant women who could hardly get up to move bins?

    If you think these are comparable watch them handle emergencies.

  10. I fly monthly and have no complaints about TSA. Can’t seem to understand all the hate generated against them. Haven’t we been safe since 9/11? How about some balance in the reporting here? More weapons are routinely stopped by TSA than missed in these highly sensationalized news stories. Lines are longer because more people are traveling. It’s not wholesale incompetence but a really difficult mission made more difficult by budget constraints which impact training, equipment upgrades and staffing.

  11. Charles Krauthammer once said “If there are no consequences for failure, failure will continue and multiply”.

    I’ve long used the phrase “Responsibility without authority is slavery; authority without responsibility is tyranny.”

  12. if any one gets fired it should be the tsa, or better still hand them all over to isis, scum of the world, discriminate passengers and make lives hell then they touch up kids, its not patting down its pure sexual abuse towards everyone including children, if mine was touched up i would probably be in court for assult to a tsa person, i mean assaulting a pedophile

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