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OIG: Fragments of restructured TSA office have pattern of poor management

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Poor management has plagued the fragments of a Transportation Security Administration office whose functions the agency transferred to other offices, the Homeland Security Department office of inspector general says.

TSA dissolved its Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing Office as part of an agencywide restructuring it undertook in 2010. Among the problems auditors detail in a report (.pdf) dated Oct. 26 are one legacy program suffering from insufficient staff and another that seems to have workers to spare.

The Security Threat Assessment Operations Adjudication Center, now a part of the Office of Law Enforcement and which screens transportation workers against criminal and other databases, needs more employees, auditors say. The program has fewer than 20 federal employees to manage and train about 50 contractors. The former are also responsible for the complex cases that come in and routinely work overtime to manage a backlog, auditors say.

Several employees at the Adjudication Center told auditors they don't have a backup employee who can cover their work if they're absent. The program also has a case management system with such limited functionality that only one employee knows how to generate reports to DHS and Congress from the system.

"The manual process by which these reports must be generated is so complex and labor-intensive that no other employees have been trained to provide backup or review," auditors say.

The Office of Law Enforcement is trying to increase the program's employees, TSA officials told auditors.

Meanwhile, the Secure Flight Operations Center, now part of the Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement and which matches travelers to the terrorist watch list, doesn't manage its staff well, auditors say. Equal-sized teams work each shift even though off-peak air carrier travel periods require fewer employees.

Additionally, all the program's staff work an overlapping shift on Wednesdays. Program employees told auditors that there's often nowhere to sit on Wednesdays, and the staff gets through the workload quickly.

Some staff members said that in similar places they've worked, that scheduling model has allowed for training time, but Secure Flight requires relatively little ongoing training.

For more:
- download the report, OIG-13-05 (.pdf)

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