Yesterday, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on the state of the Transportation Security Administration 11 years after 9/11. Appearing before the committee, my colleague James Jay Carafano explained:
It is certainly fitting that we pause to reflect on the state of transportation security on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, but it is even more appropriate that this hearing is taking place during what has been a fairly unremarkable year in terms of transportation security. For it was on a quiet, unremarkable autumn morning that America was attacked. The best way to prevent more days like 9/11 is to spend our unremarkable days preparing—doing what we can to continue to keep this nation safe, free, and prosperous.
Created in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was charged with ensuring the security of the nation’s transportation systems and protecting the traveling public. Nearly 11 years later, however, TSA is struggling to both understand and meet its mission. As the Subcommittee on Transportation Security of the Committee on Homeland Security explained in its Majority Staff Report released yesterday:
Congress provided TSA with the flexibility to set policies and procedures for screening people and goods as they moved through our transportation systems. Unfortunately, that flexibility has been exploited by TSA in recent years. Its operations are in many cases costly, counterintuitive, and poorly executed. Despite the reality that we have not endured another successful terrorist attack since 2001, TSA is failing to meet taxpayers’ expectations.
To begin to address these issues, the subcommittee proposed that TSA work toward rebuilding a smarter, leaner organization by advancing risk-based security, upholding the Constitution, limiting spending, creating private-sector jobs, and cutting red tape.
Indeed, the subcommittee is right. To ensure that TSA meets its mission to protect the nation’s transportation sector, reform is needed. Congress should press TSA to sharpen its mission focus, gain greater efficiency in operations, and more effectively manage its workforce.
This means that the Department of Homeland Security must remember the best way to prevent terrorists from exploiting or threatening our infrastructure is to disrupt their networks and operations before they are implemented. TSA should remain fully integrated with national counterterrorism efforts to thwart terrorist travel and exploitation of transportation infrastructure. TSA should also work to better adopt and integrate a risk-based approach to transportation security to make sure it is adopting the right balance of operational capabilities. This means expanding low-cost effective security programs, such as the Federal Flight Deck Officers program, and cutting those that aren’t effective. TSA should also recognize that privatization of airport screening makes sense from both an economic and security perspective and can improve the overall travel experience.
The Administration should take a hard look at TSA. The nation doesn’t need a massive, bloated bureaucracy. It’s time the Administration redefines the mission of TSA and implements much-needed reform.