GAO report shines spotlight on TSA employee misconduct

Incidents range from tardiness to failing to follow security protocols


According to a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on Tuesday, cases of misconduct by employees of the Transportation Security Administration rose from 2,691 in 2010 to 3,408 in 2012, an increase of 26 percent.

The GAO said that slightly more than half of the 9,600 cases of misconduct investigated and adjudicated by the TSA over the three-year period fell into two categories: Attendance and leave (unexcused or excessive absences or tardiness, absence without leave and failure to follow leave procedures), which made of 32 percent of all incidents,  and screening and security (failing to follow standard operating procedures, not conducting security or equipment checks, and allowing travelers and baggage to bypass screening), which accounted for 20 percent of all cases.

Other incidents of misconduct highlighted in the report include:

  • 16 percent – Failure to follow instructions (insubordination, ignoring policies and disrespectful conduct).
  • 10 percent – Inappropriate comments or conduct (inappropriate or sexual misconduct, fighting, abusive language or use of authority).
  • 5 percent – Drugs and alcohol (use of drugs or alcohol on duty, refusal of drug test, positive drug or alcohol test, driving under the influence, and use or sale of drugs).
  • 4 percent – Neglect of duty (inattention to duty resulting in loss of property or life, careless inspection).
  • 4 percent – Integrity and ethics (bribing, conflicts of interests, criminal conduct, nepotism, charge card abuse, misuse of government identification, accepting a gift, and improper association).
  • 3 percent – Falsification (lack of candor, forgery, unauthorized recording, time and attendance fraud).
  • 2 percent – Appearance and hygiene (uniform violations, keeping a professional appearance).
  • 4 percent – Other categories of misconduct (property damage, theft, safety/security/health, reporting responsibilities, safeguarding information, inquiries and investigations, and mishandling of classified information).

According to the report, 47 percent of these cases resulted in letters of reprimand, 31 percent resulted in a suspension for a defined period of time and 17 percent resulted in the employee being removed from the TSA. The GAO said the remaining cases covered a variety of different outcomes such as indefinite suspensions.

Some of the recommendations from the report include having the TSA establish a process to conduct reviews of misconduct to verify that screeners are following the agency’s rules, as well as developing and issuing guidance that clarifies the need for TSA officials to record all misconduct case outcomes within its database. In addition, the GAO also recommended that the agency develop reconciliation procedures to identify allegations of employee misconduct not previously addressed through adjudication.