How many airport security screeners is too many?

Joe Davidson
Columnist March 28, 2012

How many airport security screeners is too many?

Maybe the number of Transportation Security Administration officers the government now employs, suggested Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) at a House hearing he chaired Wednesday.

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. View Archive

“The growth of TSA’s bureaucracy has outpaced the number of travelers the agency was designed to protect,” Rogers said as he opened the Homeland Security subcommittee session on transportation security. “The goal of this hearing is to more fully understand why this is the case, and hear what steps TSA plans to take to address this problem.”

But after repeatedly questioning four TSA officials at the hearing, Rogers didn’t seem to have any better understanding of figures indicating the number of officers is increasing at a far higher rate than that of airline passengers.

TSA Assistant Administrator David Nicholson said the personnel levels “are mostly linked to the introduction of our Advanced Imaging Technology.”

But that didn’t satisfy Rogers.

“I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get more clarity,” he said as he closed the hearing. “We’re going to give you some more questions in writing,” he told the officials. “I hope you can provide us some insight.”

Audit questions CFC expenses

As I blogged late Tuesday, more than $1 million in expenses related to a federal charity drive have been questioned by the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general.

An audit covering 2007 through 2010 of the Combined Federal Campaigns of the National Capital Area “identified seven instances of non-compliance with regulations . . . and questions $308,820 in expenses charged to the campaign.

“In addition,” the audit continued, “we identified $764,069 in expenses that could have been put to better use for the campaigns.”

The CFC is “the world’s largest and most successful workplace charity fundraiser,” said OPM Director John Berry. “We are committed to taking all steps necessary to ensure that charities receive the maximum amount possible from this historic program.”

He ordered several actions that he said would maximize the amount of funds that are distributed to charities.

Global Impact, the nonprofit that manages the charity, has agreed to take corrective steps. “Global Impact’s continued relationship with CFC is contingent on completing these actions,” Berry said.

Global Impact President Renee Acosta said the firm has agreed to pay back the $308,820, although it plans to appeal that reimbursement. She said the funds were reimbursed so the case would not interfere with the coming fundraising drive.

Some of that money went to overcharged travel, food and campaign expenses, the audit said.

The money that “could have been put to better use,” according to the audit, was spent on conferences, design and marketing services, software, luncheons and finale events.

“We’ve managed this campaign very strictly according to regulations,” Acosta said, adding that the audit’s findings “are a question of interpretation of the regulations.”

During the years of the audit, Acosta said, the campaign raised $260 million against $15 million in expenses.

Berry said “any failure to abide by OPM regulations regarding the handling of charitable contributions is unacceptable.” In addition to paying back the money, Berry said Global Impact agreed to implement additional internal controls and will certify compliance by April 23.

OPM is also creating “a new task force group led by the watchdog organization Charity Navigator to look at the potentially wasteful expenditures identified by the IG,” he said.

Among other steps, Berry also issued a directive “prohibiting the use of campaign funds for meals or entertainment in any circumstances.”

Clarification on benefits cut

Earlier this week, the Federal Diary reported on legislation that would cut workers’ compensation benefits for some employees hurt on their federal jobs. The column featured Reginald Gipson, who injured his back and leg while on a Secret Service duty call.

Under the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), certain recipients would be excluded from a reduction. Gipson and his lawyer, Steven Brown of Westlake Village, Calif., insisted Gipson would get hit by the benefit cut.

After being told Collins’s office disputed that, Brown at first continued to maintain his client would suffer a benefit cut. Late Wednesday afternoon, however, Brown called back to say that upon further review of the legislation his early interpretation was not correct.

So if both the senator’s staff and Gipson’s lawyer are correct, I am happy to report that his workers’ compensation payments will remain whole.

Elizabeth “E.R.” Anderson, a spokeswoman for Collins, said “the intent of the provision” was not meant to hurt “those who truly cannot work.”

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson. Follow the Federal Diary on Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

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