DENVER (CBS4) – In the past month the Transportation Security Administration has come under scrutiny for being understaffed, causing long delays at security lines across the country. And during a congressional hearing this week more was learned about the factors that could be contributing to the staffing shortage.
TSA agents look for weapons and dangerous people, but since its creation after Sept. 11, its mission has changed with agents working at concerts and sporting events. CBS4’s Howard Nathan spoke to an aviation expert at Metropolitan State University of Denver who explained what happened.
The issue was raised during congressional hearings this week involving TSA administrator Peter Neffenger.
“Right now we provide support to the Secret Service when they ask under an inter-governmental service agreement,” Neffinger said in the hearing.
Aviation expert Jeffrey Price was the assistant security director at Denver International Airport in the mid-1990s. He says the long lines were created by the TSA cutting 5,000 agents. Price says there was an expectation that the Clear Pass would sign up more fliers but it didn’t happen.
“TSA was counting on 25 million people signing up for pre-check when the numbers weren’t even up to 2.5 million at the time,” Price said.
The new TSA administrator has vowed to fix the problems that led to the long security lines, and yet Price points out the TSA is a massive bureaucracy, and by its nature, culture change is very difficult.
“He’s under the gun constantly for every little failure of the system,” Price said. “The man hasn’t been there for a year and they’re already calling for his resignation due to long lines.”
There are approximately 45,000 TSA agents nationwide, and only 75 have been pulled off the original mission of protecting the flying public. Price believes there are more than 75 that have been working other duties.