TSA’s $800,000 Bill for Empty Storage Space Scrutinized
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is warehousing $119 million worth of screening equipment in space including an unneeded area the size of an American-football field, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general said.
TSA is renting 72,074 square feet (6,696 square meters) worth of unneeded space in three Texas warehouses to store some of the gear, at a cost of about $800,000 a year, the inspector general said.
One set of machines sat in storage so long that they became obsolete before they were ever used, the inspector general said.
“This report highlights serious deficiencies in TSA’s method for managing the storage of screening equipment,” Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said in a statement. “Every dollar wasted is a dollar that is not spent on protecting this nation and fixing known security vulnerabilities.”
The report came out of a hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees last May. Republican staff from the two panels found the agency, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to take over airport security, hadn’t purchased or deployed screening equipment in a cost-efficient manner and blocked congressional investigators when they tried to visit the sites.
The agency has been holding 22 percent of the items in the warehouse, or 3,824 pieces of equipment, for more than two years, the inspector general said. One hundred of those machines are security-related, including explosive trace detectors, x- rays and a bottle-liquid scanner.
As of May 2012, TSA had 12 automated explosive-detection systems in the warehouse, three of which had been there more than three years, the report said. A TSA official told investigators the agency will no longer deploy so-called Auto EDS units because newer machines do the job faster and take up less room at the airport.
In its written response, TSA’s deputy administrator, John Halinski, agreed with some of the inspector general’s recommendations on how to improve deployment of screening equipment. The agency has been improving inventory management for several years, he said.
Photos in the report of unused storage space are misleading because the agency was intentionally reducing the equipment stored at the location with the lease expiring, Halinski said.
The TSA must be able to rapidly deploy technology to the 450 airports it’s responsible for in response to changing threat information, agency spokesman David Castelveter said in an e- mailed statement.
“In the past few years, TSA has reduced the annual cost for its warehouse leases and related expenses by working directly with warehouse owners,” Castelveter said. “TSA understands the need to reassess warehouse space requirements and will do so on an annual basis.”
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