Is the TSA DOA?

The TSA is dead. So says consumer advocate Chris Elliott, who argues that the "openly hostile crowd" that excoriated the Transportation Security Administration at a recent subcommittee hearing is evidence of the unpopular agency's inevitable demise.

At the House aviation subcommittee hearing last Thursday, panelists took turns criticizing the TSA, calling it "dysfunctional," "expensive," "out of control," and "the butt of countless jokes." But agency reps weren't in attendance to take the heat, since TSA Administrator John Pistole failed to show. (The reason for the no show? The TSA said that the House Homeland Security Committee, not the aviation subcommittee, oversees its operations.)

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Some panelists went so far as to call for a downsizing of the agency, or even total elimination of it. According to a report from The New York Times, Wisconsin Representative Thomas Petri argued, "We need to be closing down TSA as we know it. A fish rots from the head."

Elliott reports that Charlie Leocha of the Consumer Travel Alliance "described a future TSA that more closely resembled the pre-9/11 security system, which used magnetometers (metal detectors) as its primary screening method, had employees that dressed in nonthreatening uniforms, and banned only the most dangerous weapons, such as guns and explosives, from aircraft." The system could also rely on prescreening programs like Trusted Traveler, proposed Leocha.

Leocha even supplied specific uniform advice, suggesting that agents dress in nonthreatening "pastel polo shirts."

Another solution that came up in the hearing includes replacing the agency with private security companies. According to The Times, only U.S. airports have begun using private security forces, and a few other small airports have issued requests to do so.

Elliott says the question is not if, but when Congress will move to reform the TSA. But whether we'll see sweeping changes, a switch to private security companies, or a broad dismantling of the multi-billion-dollar agency remains to be seen.

What do you think should happen to the TSA?

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