Report: Low pay, morale affecting TSA workforce
- By Sherkiya Wedgeworth
- May 21, 2019
A House committee on Tuesday urged the Transportation Security Administration to make the agency a “better place to work,” as a recent report has concluded that low pay and morale on the frontline is affecting U.S. security.
During her opening testimony at the March 21 House Homeland Security Committee, Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), said, “TSA continues to struggle to provide consistent recruitment, retention, and training at federalized airports across the United States, contributing to the agency’s longstanding attrition and morale challenges.”
She contends that the agency also struggles to manage its frontline workforce, noting report findings that concluded workers are unhappy with their compensation and reform is needed.
TSA commissioned a third-party panel to examine the workforce needs at the agency. The panel interviewed transportation security officers, leadership and other stakeholders, in addition to analyzing documents and data provided by TSA that it used to look for trends, corroboration, or potential root causes of identified issues.
“The panel believes the systemic problems with TSO pay may be a major contributor to some of those perceptions, due to the inability of TSOs (even those with exceptional performance ratings) to advance within their pay bands,” the report states, adding, ”Employee perceptions of leadership and organizational fairness may undermine their commitment to stay at TSA.”
It recommended that the agency consider change its current pay-scale structure, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, but not move to the antiquated General Schedule used by other agencies.
“A better course of action is to use existing ATSA flexibility to improve the TSA pay system so that it operates at a level superior to the GS system,” the report said, calling the ATSA, ”an ill-defined service delivery model that relies on contractors with insufficient oversight and inadequate Human Capital Information Technology, poorly trained field staff, and a headquarters human capital office that lacks strategic focus and demonstrates insufficient teamwork.”
TSA said in a press release that it has already begun to implement some of the panel’s recommendations, focusing on two main areas: the hiring and advancement process and human resource information technology.
“The agency must double down on progress made towards improving career progression for frontline personnel and making TSA a better place to work,” Lesko said.
View the full report with recommendations here.