Festering TSA

8/18/2013

American taxpayers will be less than delighted to learn that the Transportation Security Administration — the folks who frisk you at the airport — is expanding its activities.

The TSA was created in response to the 9/‚Äč11 attacks, to prevent aircraft-based terrorist assaults on the United States. It has grown to 56,000 employees, who are outfitted with an array of expensive equipment. This has brought heavy costs to taxpayers and profits to suppliers.

The TSA’s activities have also hurt U.S. airlines, as some travelers now choose to drive to their destinations instead of enduring long, slow lines at airport security and the sometimes rage-inspiring attention of inspection agents.

No government officials have reduced the TSA’s role, even as the 2001 attacks have receded. Meanwhile, the TSA has moved to institutionalize itself.

Its employees unionized last year, as part of the powerful American Federation of Government Employees. That move makes the TSA harder not only to eliminate, but even to trim. The agency’s role in maintaining “national security” also gives it strength to elude cuts in its $8 billion annual budget.

Another move by the TSA to dig in deeper is the creation of its Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads. The New York Times reports that armed, uniformed, armor-wearing VIPR teams comb high-traffic places such as Union Station in Washington, D.C., and the Metro rail line in Minneapolis.

VIPR squads also are found at music festivals, sporting events, road weighing stations, shopping malls, and rodeos. The annual budget: $100 million.

Some members of Congress are not convinced that the VIPR teams are effective. Federal auditors question whether they’ve been properly trained and deployed. Just how much of this does the taxpayer have to put up with?