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Bennie T.
Democrat MS 2

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  • Tsa Office of Inspection Accountability Act of 2015

    by Representative Bennie G. Thompson

    Posted on 2015-02-10

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    THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 719, the ``TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act of 2015''.

    Upon its creation, TSA was given broad authority to hire, fire, and set the terms of employment of its personnel.

    This has resulted in employees, such as Transportation Security Officers, lacking the full rights afforded other Federal employees.

    It has also resulted, in some cases, of abuses of the system for the gain of a few.

    According to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, TSA's Office of Inspection has been gaming the system by employing a bloated number of personnel as ``criminal investigators'' for years.

    Those who are designated as ``criminal investigators'' receive additional compensation and are afforded the right to retire early.

    H.R. 719 will put an end to these abuses by requiring the Inspector General to approve the method used by TSA to designate personnel as criminal investigators. It also requires TSA to certify to Congress that only those individuals performing the requisite criminal investigation work are designated as ``criminal investigators''.

    According to the Inspector General, properly classifying individuals within TSA's Office of Inspection could save taxpayers as much as $17 million over five years.

    During Committee consideration of this measure last Congress, I offered an amendment on behalf of Representative Loretta Sanchez that addresses revelations about how some within TSA's Federal Air Marshal Service exploited relationships with private vendors to obtain discounted or free firearms.

    Specifically, in April 2014, the Committee became aware that the former director of the Federal Air Marshal Service bought several guns from an employee who is under investigation for using his position to obtain free and discounted firearms.

    Unfortunately, TSA was less than forthcoming with Congress regarding this investigation, leaving many questions unanswered about how the investigation was conducted and the number of FAMs officials involved.

    The exploitation of official relationships for personal gain is a serious matter.

    Such misuse occurring within the Federal Air Marshal Service, the Law Enforcement component within TSA is unacceptable.

    To address the lack of transparency regarding the investigation, the Committee accepted language I offered to require TSA to provide information and materials associated with the Office of Inspection's review of the allegations to Congress.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, as a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee and a former chair of the Transportation Security Subcommittee, I rise in support of H.R. 719, the ``TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act of 2015.'' Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Chairman McCaul and Ranking Member Thompson for their leadership in bringing this legislation to the floor.

    H.R. 719 will save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands dollars annually by requiring the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to conform its personnel classification practices to existing Federal law and regulations regarding criminal investigator positions.

    According to a report by the Homeland Security Department's Inspector General (IG), about half of the employees in the Office of Inspection (OII) are classified as criminal investigators even though their duties do not involve responsibilities that can be characterized as criminal investigation activities.

    Instead, the responsibilities of these employees primarily consist of administrative duties such as investigating cases of TSA employee misconduct and conducting internal reviews.

    Classifying these employees as ``law enforcement'' personnel, however, makes them eligible for premium pay and other significant economic benefits.

    If TSA fails to reclassify criminal investigator positions as noncriminal investigator positions or non-law-enforcement positions, this will cost taxpayers as much as $17,000,000 over 5 years.

    This money could be utilized to ensure that law enforcement agencies, which identify, apprehend, and prosecute criminals, have the tools, resources, and training necessary to do their job efficiently, effectively, and economically.

    Mr. Speaker, I have always strongly supported providing the resources needed by law enforcement and first responders and will continue to do so in future.

    But we have an obligation to the American people to be responsible stewards of the public trust and it is not responsible to provide premium pay and benefits intended for law enforcement personnel to employees who do not perform the dangerous duties of law enforcement officers.

    This bill will obligate the Assistant Secretary of TSA to reclassify criminal investigator positions in the Office of Inspection as noncriminal investigator positions or non-law enforcement positions if the individuals in those positions do not, or are not expected to, spend an average of at least 50 percent of their time performing criminal investigative duties.

    This is an important step to bring transparency to the office of inspector with regards to the work of TSA personnel and law enforcement investigative task.

    I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 719, which directs the Office of Inspection to reclassify its current criminal investigator positions to conform to the requirements of applicable law and save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

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