Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica appeared on FOX’s ‘On the Record with Greta Van Susteren’ last week to discuss how the TSA is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars because of inefficiencies in its procurement, deployment and storage of airport security screening equipment.
Mica expressed “outrage”, saying that he has been after them for the past year and spoke of a how a whistle-blower recently informed them that the TSA had thousands of pieces of equipment sitting idle in a warehouse in Dallas, TX.
And at a joint hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on T&I held Wednesday, after asking TSA officials if they were aware of this, Mica said, “someone needs to get aware”.
All good and well, after all, our elected officials should be concerned about wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.
Except someone was aware… as far back as November 2009.
Starting with the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Management and Budget, and the appropriate Congressional Oversight and Appropriations Committees – of which, Mica was Ranking Member of the T&I Committee and sat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The very committees that held the joint hearing last week that pounded TSA officials over the handling of equipment.
The DHS’s Office of Inspector General produced a report on Nov 13, 2009 that took a close look at the management of the TSA’s Logistics Center.
The report noted that the TSA had thousands of units of equipment stored at airports around the country, as well as in three warehouses it leased – including the one in Dallas, TX. It also pointed out that as of January 2009, the TSA stored new equipment more than 3 years.
It’s hard to fathom that the TSA would not have included the T&I Committee on the distribution list, and as Ranking Member, it’s more than reasonable to expect that Mica would have received a copy of the Office of Inspector General’s Nov 2009 report when it was issued.
Even more so when considering his unique interest in the TSA, which he is known to call “the little bastard child I created.” Evidence of this interest on full display when Mica penned an op/ed on June 28, 2010 for Politico titled; TSA bogged down in bureaucracy.
A hard hitting critique of the agency just eight months after the 2009 report, as he began to publicly advocate for an opt-out for airports to utilize private screening professionals.
All of which raises the infamous question, what did John Mica know and when did he know it?
Did Mica know of these equipment issues as far back as November 2009? And if so, why did he not respond then with the same fanfare we see from him today? Every issue currently being grandstanded was documented as existing a full 2 1/2 years ago.
Or did he fail to exercise due diligence upon receiving the 2009 report and had to rely on a “whistle-blower” to inform him of what he should have already known?
If Mica never received the report, how is that possible, given the circumstances? Reports that typically go to the Chair and Ranking Member of a given committee. Would this not suggest that then T&I Chair James L. Oberstar (D-MN) intentionally kept the report from Mica?
And even if he did not receive the report, is it believable that a widely distributed evaluation of his “bastard child” took place without Mica ever catching wind of it or being tipped off about it’s existence?
As usual, far more questions than answers, yet the side show continues…
Highlights from the Office of Inspector General’s Nov 2009 report;
As of January 2009, TSA had approximately 13,650 units of transportation security equipment at 457 airports nationwide and 2,302 units of transportation security equipment stored in warehouses at the TSA Logistics Center in Dallas, Texas.
TSA contracted for its first warehouse for equipment storage at the TSA Logistics Center in February 2005. As inventory increased, TSA added a second warehouse in FY 2007 and a third warehouse in FY 2009.
As illustrated in the table below, 224 units (10%) of equipment at the Logistics Center had been stored for more than 2 years and 826 units (36%) had been stored for more than 1 year as of January 2009.
Results of Audit
TSA did not efficiently deploy, redeploy, or dispose of transportation security equipment through its Logistics Center. Specifically, TSA stored new equipment more than 3 years without written transition plans for its deployment; did not perform timely assessments of the condition of used equipment to determine whether these items could be redeployed; and stored excess transportation security equipment longer than necessary.
This occurred because TSA did not have standard guidance for the deployment, redeployment, and disposal of its transportation security equipment. As a result, TSA may have lost utility of equipment as it aged in storage and did not have an accurate accounting of its inventory. In addition, the need to store excess equipment contributed to TSA’s decision to lease additional warehouse space in FY 2009 at a cost of $2 million.
Deployment of New Equipment
TSA did not always deploy new equipment efficiently or take action to resolve deployment delays. In some instances, new equipment was stored for years before TSA program office personnel designated an airport to receive it. For example, during the first 3 months of 2007, the TSA Logistics Center received eight explosive detection systems units at a cost of about $7 million. As of January 2009, all eight explosive detection systems units remained in storage at the Logistics Center.
Department of Homeland Security
Chief of Staff for Operations
Chief of Staff for Policy
Director, GAO/OIG Liaison Office
Assistant Secretary for Office of Policy
Assistant Secretary for Office of Public Affairs
Assistant Secretary for Office of Legislative Affairs
Transportation Security Administration
Assistant Secretary Transportation Security Administration
TSA Audit Liaison
Office of Management and Budget
Chief, Homeland Security Branch
DHS OIG Budget Examiner
Congressional Oversight and Appropriations Committees, as appropriate