Without a budget at TSA, managing is a juggling act

"Troublesome" is the way James M. Loy describes life without a budget for the new Transportation Security Administration.

Loy, undersecretary of Transportation for security, assumed leadership of TSA when it was formed in November 2001. The agency has grown to 50,000 employees in its first year. But it has been operating under a continuing resolution since Oct. 1, with money being doled out month by month at fiscal 2002 levels.

Unfortunately, TSA's plans for fiscal 2003 are "enormously front-end loaded," Loy said Dec. 10 at an e-government conference on homeland security in Washington. It must pay contractors for work done its first year and prepare for a Dec. 31 deadline for screening all checked bags at airports.

"I have a meeting every Thursday to decide what contractor I'm going to steal from on Friday to pay off the contractor I stole from last Friday," Loy said.

TSA met a Nov. 19 deadline for assuming passenger screening operations at 429 airports. But in the absence of a budget, "support for the screeners has taken a back seat to the job of getting them on board," Loy said.

Despite the money crunch, Loy said, he is proud of TSA's record to date. But he said he is agonizing over the Dec. 31 deadline for baggage screening.

"We hope to meet it," he said. "There may be some delays."

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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