A new government report says low morale among the nation's 48,000 airport screeners could jeopardize security, reports USA Today.
The 29-page report from Richard Skinner, inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), says screeners complain of discrimination, management misconduct, nepotism, and selective hiring, although the report fails to provide details. Screeners, says the report, also fear retaliation when they file a complaint and are discouraged by managers when they seek a meeting with the agency's ombudsman.
In response, the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Kip Hawley, charged in a written reply seen by USA Today that the report followed poor methodology which resulted in "flawed conclusions" due to disgruntled employees.
The inspector general's report relies on interviews conducted at 8 out of the 450 commercial airports in the country, Hawley said. They were picked because screeners had already complained about their treatment.
One screener at Boston's Logan Airport, who is also a spokesman for a screener's union, told USA Today that low morale can lead screeners to become unfocused while performing their duties.
TSA's deputy administrator Gale Rossides described screener morale as high and spoke of a new training regime that increases screener interaction with passengers while distributing new uniforms with a new name badge to increase the respect screeners receive while doing their jobs.
The article notes that last February DHS released an employee survey which reported mixed feelings among screeners. Ninety-four percent said their job was important, but only 20 percent said promotions were based on merit.