Nothing Changes at the TSA

The Transportation Security Administration has been around for only 17 years, but it is something of a prodigy when it comes to bad behavior among bureaucrats. Government Exec magazine first described the problem of TSA managers becoming the “biggest bullies in government” over two and a half years ago:

A toxic culture and poor management are causing a mass exodus of Transportation Security Administration employees, lawmakers and agency whistleblowers said during a congressional hearing Wednesday.

Senior leadership at the agency has made a practice of hiring managers with no experience and few skills, three TSA employees told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The employees cited repeated examples in which they were retaliated against for highlighting wrongdoing at the agency, which they said were emblematic of a widespread problem that has cultivated a fearful workforce.

Here’s an update on the situation, from the Federal News Network just a few months ago:

A toxic culture among leadership at the Transportation Security Administration is decimating employee morale and retention, according to a new report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It sums up a three year investigation, during which the committee discovered details about inappropriate relationships with subordinates, whistleblower retaliation in the form of involuntary directed reassignments, coordination between the agency and the Homeland Security Department’s Office of General Counsel to obstruct the investigation, and numerous other infractions.

FNN provides descriptions of the bureaucracy’s management behaving badly:

The report also detailed multiple instances of TSA senior leadership conducting themselves inappropriately. One executive pursued a relationship with a subordinate, then admitted to purposely misleading investigators. Though OPR recommended dismissal, he agreed to a settlement including a 14-day suspension and demotion, but no loss of pay.

Another executive was convicted of driving while intoxicated, and attempted to claim falsely to police that she wasn’t operating the vehicle, but a member of TSA’s Aviation Security Advisory Committee was. Again, OPR recommended dismissal, but the executive settled for a 14-day suspension.

A third executive got away with sexually harassing employees, and making racially offensive remarks for seven years before finally being dismissed.

At least the oversight report confirms that somebody in a position of authority at the TSA finally got fired, rather than temporarily suspended. Unfortunately, there is now a high level of risk that the toxic culture at the TSA is only going to get worse, according to the Washington Post, where a whistleblower recently lost their lawsuit against the TSA, where the badly behaving bureaucrats, defended by the TSA’s lawyers, successfully escaped accountability.

Because they did, the one thing that we can expect is that the bureaucrats’ bad behavior will continue.

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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