Should TSA Be Privatized?
Anybody who has dealt with a large bureaucracy of any kind understands that it's an eternal thing, like a gigantic ship steered with a rudder the size of a canoe paddle. You might be able to nudge it in one direction or another, but forget about stopping it, much less making it disappear.
With that image in mind, it's going to be interesting watching Rep. John Mica try to get TSA under control. Mica is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and he's taken to openly calling TSA his "little bastard child." Except with 67,000 employees, there's nothing little about it. As does every federal bureaucracy, TSA has morphed into a large, entrenched agency that is, in some ways, worse than any other because it pretends to be answerable to no one. As one of the authors of the bill that created it, Mica now figures it's his job to fix it. Good luck.
One thing he would like to try is privatizing the agency's airport functions, which is already happening at a few airports, including San Francisco, where screening is done on a per passenger basis for about half the cost of airports where TSA does it. Several dozen airports have applied for permission to switch to private screening, but TSA's John Pistole, in open defiance of Mica, has refused to allow those airports to convert. It will be an interesting political season for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to see where this little fight goes.
But is privatizing the right solution? Given the abuse, corruption and overspending in the military contract system, I'm not sure it is. Billions got flushed down the rat hole in Iraq and Afghanistan in unsupervised outside contracting and it's easy to see how that could happen in the airport screening realm, if the government does a re-set-and-forget on it.
The Congress seems in a mood to cut spending so maybe the first place to start is to junk Homeland Security and put TSA under the transportation department, but force it to reduce its bloated size. Not for nothing do some people call TSA "Thousands Standing Around."
But this isn't Mica's first day, so I suspect he has no illusions about making much of a dent in the monster he helped create. He has said on numerous occasions that he's surprised at how the agency has expanded. If that's a sincere statement, maybe he ought to consider another line of work.