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TSA Failure: Agency Falls Short on Most Undercover Screening Tests

After 15-plus years in existence, you’d think the TSA was pretty good at its job.

Sadly, you’re wrong.

A recent round of undercover tests revealed an agency that continues to fail at the most basic elements of its purpose. According to ABC News, these tests of multiple airport security checkpoints found that “screeners, their equipment or their procedures failed more than half the time.” ABC News’ source indicated that number may be closer to 80 percent.

In a public hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Mike Rogers told TSA Administrator David Pekoske, “This agency that you run is broken badly, and it needs your attention.”

This is not the only report of TSA failure during an undercover test, in fact, failing tests like this have been a troubling hallmark of the agency. ABC News noted that in a similar test two years ago, the TSA “failed 95 percent of the time to stop inspectors from smuggling weapons or explosive materials through screening.” Here at SmarterTravel, we’ve been reporting on TSA failure and stories like this for years.

What to do about an agency with such a bad track record? Hopefully, forthcoming advances in checkpoint technology will help. The TSA is testing new scanning devices that should not only speed up the checkpoint process but also make it easier for staff to identify questionable items in people’s carry-on baggage. Travelers have been waiting for this technology for a while, and it will take time for airports to roll it out, but it’s something.

In the meantime, the fact that the TSA hasn’t gotten its act together is downright shocking. Yet, it has remained in place, more or less unchanged, since the early 2000s. Travelers have put up with years of inconvenience, hassle, and frustration for … what? For an agency that makes failure routine? For security theater and a shaky sense of safety? The TSA has certainly done some good, and no one can truly say whether we’d be better off without it, but failure at this rate is embarrassing. The TSA as we know it today is outdated and clearly ineffective, if it ever was effective to begin with, and desperately needs to be rescued from itself.

Readers, what have your TSA experiences been like recently?

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