In a contentious hearing marked by partisan rancor, the TSA’s role at the U.S. southern border and overall effectiveness was harshly questioned.
Held by House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the committee chairman, began by accusing the TSA of “languishing for years”:
Today, nearly 20 years after the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001, we are holding this hearing to examine why urgent warnings from independent auditors about security vulnerabilities at the Transportation Security Administration have been languishing for years without being resolved.
Cummings was referring to a number of vulnerabilities noted by the Government Accountability office as well as the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General. Put simply, the TSA fails near every undercover test undertaken. Hundreds of weapons and other contraband slip through undetected.
Next came scrutiny over why, with its proverbial house not in order, the TSA would expand its mission to U.S. southern border, especially as the busy summer travel seasons heats up. Democratic members of the committee asked, will this not negatively effect aviation security?
TSA: Border Deployment Has No Impact On Airport Security
Strongly pushing back, TSA Administrator David Pekoske told the committee:
It will have no effect on aviation security.
Yet in the same breath he added:
Border security is national security. This is a crisis. I have to balance off the risk at the southern border with the need to keep airports staffed.
But If there is a “balance”, does that tipping of the scale come at the expense of airport security (theatre)? The question is fair.
The TSA finds itself in the unenviable position of a political football over the larger border security debate. Ranking member Representative Jim Jordan (R- OH) was angry at Cummings’ questions.
The chairman is asking why the administration is sending TSA personnel to the border? Because there’s a crisis.
Jordan added that a single drug bust on the southern border seized “enough fentanyl to kill 57 million Americans.”
And I’m happy about that likely-inflated figure. But is TSA now in the drug-busting business?
The TSA Problem Summed Up
Cummings summed it up:
Let me put this quite starkly: On the one hand TSA has dozens of security vulnerabilities that have languished for years, but the Trump administration is asking Congress for 700 more TSA screeners to handle huge increases in air travel. Yet on the other hand, the Trump administration is taking more than 350 of these critical TSA employees, diverting them away from their primary responsibilities . . . and sending them to the southern border.
I wish he would not make this a “Trump Administration” issue, which becomes clouded in partisanship rather than just a TSA issue. The problem with the TSA has spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Representative Gerald E. Connolly (D – VA) pressed the issue, asking what many (myself included) are wondering:
I guess it seems counterintuitive that we would actually use TSA people to go down to the border. What is it that they’re going to do down there? What is the expertise they bring to protecting or securing the border? Doesn’t it take away from your mission?
A reminder of the TSA mission:
To protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.
Certainly under a broader understanding of what this means, TSA presence on the border can be justified. But is that the best use of limited resources?
> Read More: TSA Agents Sent To Southern Border To Serve Meals…
After watching some of the spectacle unfold on Capitol Hill, it makes me really glad I left my life of politics. On the other hand, the TSA issue is a critical issue that should be taken seriously on a bipartisan basis. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is right to ask whether the TSA is effective and how tax dollars should be directed.