NEWS

DHS Inspector General Criticizes TSA Controls of Screener Badges, Uniforms, and ID Cards

By Matthew Harwood

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Inspector General (IG) Richard L. Skinner criticized the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for not having proper policies to keep track of employee uniforms and badges at the nation's airports in a redacted report released Friday.

The TSA "does not have adequate controls in place to manage and account for airport security identification display area badges, uniforms, and identification cards provided to its employees," the report's executive summary read. "Unauthorized individuals' access to those items increases an airport's level of risk to a wide variety of terrorist and criminal acts."

The IG's investigation occurred after media stories appeared in early 2007 reporting that TSA identification badges and uniforms had been lost or stolen. The Washington Times reported that 3,600 transportation security officers' (TSOs) badges, identification cards, and uniforms had gone missing or were stolen since the creation of TSA in November 2001.

The IG audited five unidentified airports to determine how effective the controls in place were when a TSO left the TSA. The IG discovered that four fired TSOs had active security identification display area (SIDA) badges for up to 212 days since they were terminated because TSA did not notify SIDA badge offices that the TSOs had left the agency. Another five TSOs had active badges in between 97 and 827 days after there was "no operational need for the badge."

Effective controls were also not in place for uniform returns after TSOs left their job, the report said. According to TSA records obtained by the Associated Press, 420 uniforms and identification cards were lost or stolen in between 2001 and 2007 at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The IG's report cited three primary failures by TSA. First, the agency did not notify airport SIDA badge offices when employees left their job to ensure that display area badges were retrieved or returned to the office. Second, TSA did not record or track whom the uniform was given to, nor collect the uniform after an employee left the agency or protect and account for surplus stocks of uniforms. Finally, the IG criticized TSA for not keeping accurate records for identification cards or for ensuring that the cards were returned and destroyed when an employee left the agency.

"The Nation's airports face potentially increased risk because TSA is not adequately controlling airport SIDA badges, uniforms, and ID cards issued to TSA employees," the report warned.

The IG report  made three recommendations: TSA should account for all TSO badges, uniforms, and identification cards when employees separate from the agency; should track down TSOs that have not returned TSA materials and collect them; and finally, TSA senior officials must be held accountable for missing materials.

TSA agreed with the IG's recommendations and has already begun to implement each, according to the IG report.

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