The TSA and its Security Program
The Transportation Security Administration is one of the agencies of the US Department of Homeland Security. The TSA is responsible for the travelers’ security in the United States. It was created as a response to the 9/11 events as a counter-terrorist measure in 2001 (Poole, 2010). The Transport Security Administration is a part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, thus initially it was a part of the US Department of Transportation. It was moved to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
The main responsibility of the TSA is protection of the US transportation with a special focus on the airport security and hijacking. Despite the main focus on the aviation, the organization also takes care of the highways, railroads, busses, ports, pipelines, and mass transit systems. The TSA is also responsible for screening and luggage check in all of the US airports, although private companies still conduct their screening operations. However, all the private screenings should be conducted only under the Screening Partnership Program of the TSA and follow all the organization’s procedures. The Transport Security Administration is as well responsible for the control of luggage theft and cooperates with local law enforcement officials on that matter.
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The main reason for the TSA’s establishment was the idea that a number of private institutions are not able to provide appropriate protection for all passengers. As private companies are contracted to separate airlines, they are not able to provide extensive support that will be able to support all the airlines and provide overall security coverage. The proponents of the Transport Security Administration believe that only one general federal agency is able to provide adequate security of the US transportation system.
There are four main types of employees in the Transportation Security Administration: transportation security officers (TSOs), federal air marshals (FAMs), transportation security inspectors (TSIs), national explosives detection canine teams, and visible intermodal prevention and response (VIPR) teams. There are almost 50 thousand TSOs who are responsible for screening of people and luggage and the control over the entrance and exit points at the airports. These officers are also known as “screeners” and except the checkpoints they are also responsible for the control over a number of other areas of the airport. The FAMs are the law enforcement officers with a federal authority. These officers are responsible for detecting and controlling terrorists and other criminals. The TSIs are responsible for the inspecting the security of cargo transportation systems. There are around 1500 transportation security inspectors that can be separated in three groups: aviation inspectors, surface inspectors and cargo inspectors. In the national explosives detection canine teams trainers prepare both dogs and dog handlers to detect dangerous materials. There are currently around 500 teams in the US transport system. Lastly, the VIPR teams are working outside the airports. These teams consist of FAMs and other TSA employees and operate in ports, on train station, on special events etc.
Another group of the TSA employees are the Behavior Detection Officers. On the contrary to the usual screening officers, this group of employees is responsible for not checking the luggage or other personal belongings of passengers but their behavior. This type of TSA officers is trained to take into consideration only the behavior of passengers and in case of any suspicious patterns the selected passengers will be the subjects to additional screening.
There are different stakeholders that can be identified within the TSA organization. The two main groups are transportation industry stakeholders and the US governmental stakeholders. The stakeholders in transportation industry include companies in aircraft, railway, highway, and port industries (U.S. Governmental Accountability Office, 2011). This group of stakeholders conducts only supervisory studies and inspections of the TSA. The results of these inspections are presented to the governmental stakeholders and thus changes are made in the Transport Security Administration.
The overall reflections of the transport industry stakeholders are not satisfied as they believe that TSA uses too much money and constantly increases its’ budget (National Cable Satellite Corporation, 2012). At the same time the level of satisfaction with the TSA and its’ presentation of information to stakeholders is not satisfactory for the majority of industry representatives. However, the TSA being the federally based organization the industry representatives are not able to replace it with private security service providers, as it was before the 2001. Moreover, such groups as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have their say in the TSA management process by applying to the House Homeland Security Committee.
The other group of stakeholders consists of governmental agencies, which include the House Homeland Security Committee and the US Department of Homeland Security, as well as US Department of Transportation, under whose part the TSA has originally been. Although these governmental groups do not have a direct decision-making ability, they are able to influence the TSA and control its’ operations. However, it seems like the TSA from time to time ignores the decisions even of the Department of Homeland Security (National Cable Satellite Corporation, 2012).
The main form of solution used in the TSA practice is crime prevention. The majority of units within the organization are focused on one of the options of detecting potential criminals and stopping them in advance. There are no professionals or institutions, except the federal air marshals, who are prepared for coping with the criminal acts in process. At the same time the system of post-crime actions is developed within the TSA because its’ employees cooperate with the local law enforcement groups. At the same time this cooperation is very limited and police and other law enforcement officers do not get the full scope of information from the TSA.
At the same time it is essential to note that the Transportation Security Administration is over-protective when it comes to its’ employees (Poole, 2010). The TSA tries to solve all the complications within the organization. One of the consequences of such policy is that the TSA employees do not get criminal punishment but rather are controlled within the organization.
Despite the numerous problems of the TSA security system, it is important to note that its’ crime prevention system is quite developed and should be used as an example. Within the system a number of crime prevention tools are used: technical equipment for screening, canine groups for checks and the specially trained people who conduct profiling of passengers. Therefore, people pass through a number of various checks.
Despite the fact that the program is being implemented nation-wide for the past decade there are various criticisms of the Transportation Security Administration. One of the global criticisms of the system is that it gives a fictious sense of safety to passengers. Moreover, the numerous cases of the harassment of passengers by TSA employees have been recorded over the past decade. There are even reports of sexual harassment by the TSA employees. In fact, TSA has problems - around 90 percent of frequent fliers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the company’s operations (Collins, 2012). The main spheres of criticism include the employees’ behavior and screening job and inability to detect and counteract the terrorists’ actions. However, the criticism of the Transport Security Administration is obviously not limited to the mentioned spheres.
The infamous “Terror Watch List” that the TSA uses in order to detect potential terrorists is in fact incorrect. Firstly, it contains more than a million names, many of which are incorrectly flagged US citizens. Despite the mistake there are cases when people are unsuccessfully struggling for years in order to remove own names from the list. Moreover, in some cases people can be purposefully added to the list (Alvarez, 2010). Therefore, the “Terror Watch List” is not as efficient as the TSA presents.
The airport security that has been made stricter after the 9/11 attacks has led to a number of negative consequences. Firstly, the airline industry became less popular and thus the number of passengers in the US has reduced. Secondly, now people often prefer to drive than to take a plane due to the complicated checks and the strict security system. The increased use of cars has led to the growth in the car accident rates (Blalock, Kadiyali & Simon, 2005). Lastly, the new system of airport control is reported to be inhumane and strict. Those who have to be protected by the TSA in fact feel humiliated while passing through the checkpoints and taking off shoes and jackets.
Although the Transportation Security Administration’s responsibility is to control the luggage of passengers, the organization has in fact been criticized for the growing rates of the luggage theft. It is interesting that many reports state that either dangerous or valuable goods were stolen from the passengers. These included weapons (guns, knives), jewelry and laptops. Statistics show that in 2004 sixty TSA employees were arrested for the luggage theft and in 2008 this number has grown to 200 (McGee, 2005). This statistics can show either the tendency of successful crime detection in the TSA, or the growing number of thefts among screeners. The complication of the organization is that it does not share its’ security reports with local police, which means that in the majority of cases the TSA employees have no criminal responsibility for the crimes they’ve committed.
Despite the organization’s main aim to protect from terrorism and aircraft hijacking, there are some spheres in which passengers cannot feel protected. For example, it has been reported that the Transportation Security Administration is collecting personal information of passengers but does not secure it properly (Singel, 2007). As a result, there was a possibility of an identity theft of the passengers. The TSA has reacted on the report and fixed the website, but it has been vulnerable for at least four months.
Even the security tests conducted in the TSA have showed the ineffectiveness of the organization’s programs. During the regular undercover checks conducted by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s office the process was sabotaged as the screeners were informed about the checks and have even been provided with the descriptions of undercover officers (Doyle, 2007). Even those checks of the TSA that were conducted successfully have showed the low level of productivity of screening, as the majority of dangerous objects weren’t detected by the TSA officers.
After the enhancement of the security procedures in late 2010 the number of critical responses from the customers was addressed to the TSA (Collins, 2012). The pat down procedures are commonly considered ineffective but at the same time violate the privacy of passengers, as female breasts and everyone’s genital areas are the subjects to patting, which is quite a questionable procedure. Moreover, the enhanced procedures are sometimes considered unconstitutional as they might violate the 4th Amendment, which clearly prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
Lastly, the human factor has to be taken into consideration, while criticizing the TSA system. This is true especially with the groups that directly work with people, as these officers are obviously biased. Despite the requirement to conduct checks only according to a specific set of rules, there are constant violations of privacy and examples of racial discrimination. The racial profiling has been numerously reported throughout the US airports.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The study shows that although the TSA might serve the security needs of the United States better, it still has a lot of problems both in management and security practices. It seems that the organization overuses its power over passengers. Therefore, the communication system between the passengers and the TSA administration should be improved. The same can be said about the relations between the TSA and its stakeholders who constantly tell about the lack of communication and cooperation from the agency. It is especially important because the transportation industry stakeholders report unprecedented growth of the TSA budgets. Consequently, the Transportation Security Administration has to work on the development of its’ communication channels. The US Department of Homeland Security should in its’ turn create more open procedures of communication between the transportation sphere stakeholders and the TSA.
Another thing that has to be taken into consideration as soon as possible is the training of employees. Taking into consideration the fact that the majority of the TSA employees work directly with people and at the same time noting the constantly increasing number of complaints the additional HR trainings seem to be compulsive. The trainings should be on such subjects as racial and religious tolerance, sexual harassment, company’s culture and values etc. employees should be made aware of their role as the representatives of the TSA. From the side of the organization it has to be made clear that behavior of employees is as important as the quality of their work.