The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been receiving a lot of well deserved flak in recent months. Security theater lines have been growing and now the TSA recommends air travelers show up two hours early to ensure they get through. It reminds me of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). When wait times increase the agency doesn’t hire more staff or make its processes more efficient, it demands people take more time out of their day. This shouldn’t surprise anybody though. Nobody has the option of using a competitor to the TSA, DMV, or any other government agency so the agencies have no motivation to improve their service.
But the public is pissed, which means boring congressional hearings could be in the TSA’s future. Probably hoping to avoid going to yet another meeting where they have to pretend to pay attention while congress members pretend to provide oversight, the heads of the TSA are trying to find some reason for its failure that will satiate the public. I doubt the reason it’s giving will work though since it’s resorted to blaming everybody besides itself:
The comments reflect a statement released earlier this week after long lines were reported at Newark, JFK and LaGuardia airport security checkpoints. When asked about those long lines, the TSA essentially blamed you in a press release, specifically passengers who bring too many carry-on items:
There are several factors that have caused checkpoint lines to take longer to screen passengers… including more people traveling with carry-on bags, in many cases bringing more than the airline industry standard of one carry-on bag and one personal item per traveler;
Passenger preparedness can have a significant impact on wait times at security checkpoints nationwide…Individuals who come to the TSA checkpoint unprepared for a trip can have a negative impact on the time it takes to complete the screening process.”
Not surprisingly, it’s also blaming air passengers for not paying the agency its desired extortion fee:
In the past three years, the TSA and Congress cut the number of front-line screeners by 4,622 — or about 10 percent — on expectations that an expedited screening program called PreCheck would speed up the lines. However, not enough people enrolled for TSA to realize the anticipated efficiencies.
Perhaps the TSA should look inward. One of the biggest contributing factors to the length of security theater lines is likely the agency’s inconsistency. If you know what you have to do when you reach the checkpoint you can prepare ahead of time. For example, you might untie or entirely remove your shoes and take off your belt. You might also remove your liquids and laptop from your bags. When you arrive at the actual checkpoint you can efficiently put everything through the x-ray machine, opt out of the slave scanner, and be through as quickly as possible. But you can’t prepare yourself ahead of the checkpoint because you have no idea what you’ll be expected to do until some idiot with a badge is barking order at you.
If PreCheck is supposed to help reduce wait times and the TSA is actually committed to reducing wait times the agency should make the program free. That would encourage more people to sign up for it. You can tell that the program is more about extorting the public than making wait times shorter but the simple fact that PreCheck isn’t free (and since the TSA is a government agency it doesn’t have to concern itself with making a profit so making the program free isn’t a big deal).
Businesses know that the customer is usually right. A private security provider knows that absurdly long wait times in line will reflect negatively on the venue that hired them, which may hinder their chances of getting another contract in the future. Because of that they are more motivated to make the screening process as efficient as possible. They don’t tell an angry venue owner that the wait times are due to the incompetence of the customers because that excuse isn’t going to fly. But the government doesn’t have customers, it citizens (which is a fancy term for people being preyed on by the State). That being the case, it has no problem blaming its own failures on its citizens.