What they say / NYU's Paul LightTSA's Kip Hawley tries to turn agency around, but administration's starvation diet hampers effort

Published 9 January 2006

Management professor gives new TSA leadership high marks for effort, but says that unless administration puts more money where its mouth is, many problems will remain

New York University’s Professor Paul Light has good words for TSA’s new administrator, Edmund ”Kip” Hawley, and his efforts to breathe new life in a sluggish agency battered by low morale and continuing budget cuts by an administration which does not always put its money where its mouth is. Light highlighted the two major departures Hawley initiated, which have been discussed on our pages — the “blades to bombs” shift and the growing emphasis on behavioral screening of passengers. Light writes:

TSA is also betting that the new focus on explosives will motivate a workforce grown weary of picking through baggage and searching passengers for cigarette lighters, cuticle scissors and corkscrews …. However, changing “Safety Technicians” into “Security Officers” is unlikely to take the sting out of a compensation system that gives every employee the same once-a-year pay raise regardless of performance. And it will have no impact on injury rates ….

TSA must also monitor the unintended consequences of its new procedures, especially the potential for over-reaction in its new ”screening-by-observation” behavioral detection program. Only further investigation will tell whether federal air marshals misread the nervousness and desperation of the deranged passenger they shot and killed in Miami in December.

If the nation wants TSA to cover bombs and blades equally, it must be willing to pay the price in dollars and self-sacrifice. If not, it must either be willing to stand in screening lines much longer or give Hawley the freedom to focus on the greatest risk.

-read more in Paul Light’s Miami Herald article