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Heads Roll, but No End in Sight to the TSA Mess

SmarterTravel

The long lines, missed flights, and traveler outrage have been front-page news for months. And there’s little prospect that the bottleneck at the TSA’s airport security checkpoints can be ameliorated in time to for the summer travel crush.

It’s gotten so bad that one airline, American, has resorted to hiring its own security contractors to help speed up the processing.

It’s a mess of major proportions.

And now—finally, some would say—someone is being held to account for the misery and lost hours the TSA’s mismanagement has created.

Under intense pressure from the government, from travelers, and from the airlines, TSA administrator Peter Neffenger yesterday announced the firing of Kelly Hogan, a top manager in the TSA’s Office of Security Operations. And O’Hare Airport, where some of the system’s longest lines have been reported, will get a new management team to oversee screening.

Problem solved? Hardly.

As reported by the New York Times, Hogan was paid $90,000 in performance bonuses, during a period that saw the TSA’s performance deteriorate substantially. That suggests that the TSA as a whole has been complicit in the agency’s failures; it’s a systemic problem, not just a rogue employee. Replacing one administrator and reshuffling the org chart in Chicago are band-aids at best.

In a memo to TSA employees, Neffenger was reassuring: “These adjustments will enable more focused leadership and screening operations at critical airports in the national transportation system.”

I don’t buy it. You shouldn’t either.

Reader Reality Check

What will it take to turn around the flailing TSA?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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