The U.S. Transportation Security Administration bought $184 million in screening equipment it stored in warehouses and tried to prevent Congress from learning how many machines were there, a congressional report found.
The agency spent $3.5 million a year to lease and manage a warehouse for 5,700 pieces of unused equipment, according to the report released today by the House transportation and oversight committees.
Congress, through hearings, is questioning whether the TSA’s management is too focused on screening every airline passenger the same way, instead of developing intelligence to catch terrorists. Representative John Mica, the House transportation chairman, wants the agency to turn over the airport-screening process to private companies.
“Systemic flaws continue to plague the TSA,” California Republican Representative Darrell Issa, the oversight committee chairman, said in a statement prepared for the hearing. “These flaws are exacerbated by a management structure that seems content to throw millions of dollars at untested solutions.”
The panels are holding a joint hearing on TSA’s equipment purchases today. David Nicholson, TSA’s assistant administrator for finance and administration, and Charles Edwards, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, will testify.
“The CIA uncovered terrorists’ latest modified underwear bomb plot, but TSA has repeatedly failed to effectively procure and deploy screening equipment that actually detects threats,” Mica said in a statement.
The TSA reduced the annual costs of running its three Texas warehouses to $3.5 million in 2011 from $7.6 million a year in 2009, Nicholson said in prepared remarks. Almost 80 percent of screening equipment the agency purchases is stored for less than a year, he said.
Congressional staff attempting to learn about equipment purchases and storage faced deliberate delays while the TSA attempted to hide unused machines, the report found.
When investigators asked on a site visit why so few workers were at the Texas storage site at 3 p.m., a manager said he had sent them home because they had been working since 6 a.m. to remove 1,300 pieces of equipment, according to the report.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at email@example.com