Officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced recently that travelers need to arrive at the airport a full three hours before their flight in order to get through the long security lines. While TSA is blaming the long wait times on an increase in travelers, experts in the field think it’s a mixture of the TSA being devious and inept.
According to aviation expert Robert Mark, it’s possible that this is the TSA’s way of convincing Congress to give them more money. Apparently, their $7 billion annual budget isn’t quite enough.
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The media is coming to the aid of the TSA, saying that the long wait times are the result of “budget cuts.” But as an editorial in the Investor’s Business Daily pointed out, that’s always the excuse when a government agency fails. Besides, “At $7.3 billion this year, TSA’s budget is 9% higher than it was in 2007,” and “its full-time workforce climbed by 4.3% over those years.” The editorial added that “TSA’s gains since 2007 came at a time of declining air travel…. Plus, the TSA has fewer airports to manage than it once did,” since 22 airports have “opted out” of using the TSA and have implemented privately run security instead.
Chris Edwards – the director of tax policy studies with the Cato Institute – said that the agency is littered with problems that have nothing to do with “budget cuts.” One problem he mentioned is their high turnover rate, which he said is not only bad for employee morale, but also bad for security.
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In addition to that, the TSA is the stereotypical government agency pouring billions of dollars into things that don’t work. “As a result,” he said, “they’ve starved their budget from hiring more screeners to reduce congestion.” One such example of the TSA dumping money into something that doesn’t work is the agency’s use of the full body scanners that were eventually discontinued because of civil liberties concerns. But even on a purely pragmatic level, the machines didn’t do anything to keep people safe. They did, however, provide something that screeners could joke about behind closed doors. Perhaps that helped with morale a bit.
CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg doesn’t see the TSA intentionally creating chaos as an underhanded way to extract more taxpayer money. He said that they’re just inept. CBS reported:
“TSA is not adjusting to basic airline schedules and peak passenger flow times,” he said.
Greenberg points out the busiest flight times are between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., but TSA does not concentrate enough staff during those peak times.
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Others see these long wait times at the airport as the TSA’s way of
extorting getting people to sign up for PreCheck, which costs travelers $85, and gets people through security much more quickly. There might be something to that, since about 8,300 people per day have been signing up for PreCheck, apparently double what it was last year. That’s over $700,000 per day that the TSA’s raking in.
Here’s Ben Swann’s “Reality Check” on airports’ long wait times: