Thompson skeptical of TSA outsourcing strategy

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee yesterday criticized the Transportation Security Administration for its decision to outsource management of the more than 40,000 transportation security officers employed by the agency.

Lockheed Martin announced July 8 that it had been awarded an eight-year, $1.2 billion contract to manage the TSA's Integrated Hiring Operations and Personnel Program. The company said it will develop and deploy a personnel system that supports the recruitment, hiring, payment and promotions of all TSA employees.

On Thursday, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chairs the homeland committee, criticized the TSA for outsourcing the work.

"At present, I fail to understand how this contract will benefit the Transportation Security Officer workforce, and what the contract will actually require the vendor to do to alleviate the known problems at TSA," Thompson wrote to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley.

Thompson, in a five-page letter, requested information on 14 concerns related to employment practices and policies, worker morale and contract terms. Many of the inquiries originated in findings published in two recent reports by the Homeland Security Department Office of the Inspector General.

"I am concerned that the TSO workforce is suffering from a problem-plagued environment, which has led to fatigue and low morale," Thompson wrote.

"As the backbone of your agency, these frontline employees deserve clear guidelines, proper training, career development and a safe and healthy work environment. I am certain that you share my concern for their well being. However, these problems cannot be 'outsourced' away," Thompson wrote.

Thompson's letter was released by National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley, who also has been critical of the Lockheed Martin contract. The union represents transportation security officers at three airports.

"The profit Lockheed Martin will make from a $1.2 billion deal could be used to increase staffing and reduce congestion at our nation's airports," Kelley said in a news release. "Is that not a much better use of taxpayers' money?"

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin would support TSA recruitment and hiring, manage employee records, and process paychecks and health and retirement benefits.

The contract consolidates workforce services that had been performed by three separate contractors in the past, TSA said. It has a six-month transition period, followed by a one-year base period and seven option years. The total value is $1.2 billion if all options are exercised, TSA said.

The contract also includes an option for the government to use Lockheed Martin's human resources services to a larger degree, creating a possible maximum value of $3 billion over the eight and a half years, TSA said.

TSA is an agency of the Homeland Security Department. It employs more than 40,000 airport screeners as well as federal air marshals and other full- and part-time officials.

Lockheed Martin, of Bethesda, Md., ranks No. 1 on Washington Technology's 2008 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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