- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The TSA’s new administrator on Wednesday vowed to retrain airport security officials who failed to spot weapons and properly vet employees for terrorist ties by October.

The security lapses were identified in a set of scathing government watchdog reports earlier this year, prompting lawmakers to admonish the TSA for its “dismal” performance. The reports show how undercover agents were able to slide fake bombs past airport guards — a safety breach that eventually led to the removal of Melvin Carraway as TSA acting administrator.

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said some of the security problems will be remedied by the end of September through a 60-day training process that teaches TSA employees how to avoid making the same mistakes.

“That will address the immediate problem, and I think that we can do that,” he said during a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on aviation security challenges. “The bigger question is are there systemic issues in the way that we are approaching our business that led to those failures in the first place. What I don’t want to see is some other set of failures in the future.”

But the promise of new training wasn’t enough to appease some lawmakers.

The TSA needs to make some top-to-bottom “dramatic changes” in order to correct previous problems and alter the culture of the administration, said Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican.

“You have some employees where you’re going to have to put the fear of God in their heart or nothing is going to change,” he said.

In June, lawmakers learned through leaked reports from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General that the TSA’s passenger screening was wrong 96 percent of the time and that 73 aviation workers had potential ties to terrorism.

In one instance, an undercover agent was able to get through a magnetometer and past a security screener with a fake bomb strapped to his back.

Those are the types of findings that “shatter public confidence,” said House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican.

“A reported 96 percent failure rate to detect explosives is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Mr. Neffenger informed lawmakers that he planned to address some of their concerns by expanding the TSA’s canine team and hiring private security and third-party screeners. He said he is also looking at expediting the security process by eliminating boarding passes and moving toward adopting integrated technology, which would allow trusted individuals with security background checks to board their airplane flights at a quicker pace.

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