Senate Committee on Homeland Security addresses TSA concerns

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs held a hearing today concerning the Transportation Security Administration, in light of its recent issues regarding the agency. This comes as several reports, including one by the Government Accountability Office, have been released detailing major issues regarding problems within the TSA. Thess include, but are not limited to: major security lapses at airports (TSA officers had recently failed 67 out of 70 tests involving fake weapons), low morale among its 46,000 officers, and in the words of Rebecca Roering, the Assistant Federal Security Director for the DHS, a “culture of fear and distrust.”

“We believe there are vulnerabilities in TSA’s screening operations, caused by a combination of technology failures and human error,” Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth (who had recently exposed major vulnerabilities in the system) stated. “TSA cannot afford to miss a single, genuine threat without potentially catastrophic consequences.” This sentiment was supported by Majority Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI), who noted “We need to approach the solution soberly and honestly.”

This also comes a day before the hearing intended to examine the nomination of Peter V. Neffenger, a Vice Admiral for the Coast Guard, to be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security who will oversee the TSA. Upon being questioned by the committee about hypothetical advice for the Adm. Neffenger, the witnesses offered various bits of advice. Robert MacLean, an Air Marshal whose termination for whistleblowing in 2006 was overturned by the Supreme Court several months ago, noted an serious issue with most of the Air Marshals: “Bored managers are looking for something to do... There's nothing going on.” Jennifer Grover, a director from the Government Accountability Office, hopes that with Neffenger’s confirmation, her organization and the TSA would be able to work together to work out the problems, noting the need to “manage against those risks.”

However, any other discussion was cut short by an evacuation of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. The threat was caused by a bomb threat that was phoned into Capitol Police.