tv House Homeland Security Hearing on TSA Workforce CSPAN May 23, 2019 8:10am-9:35am EDT
what they would be doing if they got there, how much they'd be paid once they got there and who would pay for it? >> no, sir, i have not. the only thing that we have heard is what we read in the newspaper and we are the exclusive representative of the employees. >> so your membership roster for tso's is how many? >> we represent about 44,000. >> so your testimony to this committee is that the 44,000 members of afde who are being asked to volunteer, to your knowledge, there's no strategy, no communication whatsoever that's been provided their duly authorized representative? >> not my knowledge, sir. >> mr. chairman, i'd like to
recognize mr. cat coe from the state of new york for five minutes of questions, sir. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i thank you all for being here today. before i get into my questions, i want to make an observation. that is this. during the shutdown, i think the tsos acted in an exemplary manner by and large and under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. they came to work, did their jobs and kept us safe. that can't be under scored enough. we're looking at this whole issue. as i often -- every time i have an opportunity to say that, i do. we ask them to do the impossible day in and day out with very little pay. i think that's very commendable of themes, especially given the gravity of their responsibilities. with that being said, i want to ask all of you, quick poll question here, do you all agree we should try and give better compensation to the tso officers? everybody agree with that? everyone. okay. the question is how to get there, right? let's talk about that a minute.
mr. mr. neal, you say that the title 5 route is not the way to go. how do we institutionalize that? >> first off, getting better pay is to appropriate more labor dollars to tsa to pay for it. based on getting more money, then tsa can look at where the money could best be used. what we found is that there is a relationship between private sector security guard pay and turnover among tsos. where e-ban tsos are not paid well and private secured guards are paid well, airport suffered very high turnover. so we can do some modeling that would show where labor dollars could be applied that would actually reduce turnover. some of that obviously would be new money. once you got started with that, a good chunk of that $70 million a year spent on recruiting and
training new employees could be applied to tso pay. we think that's the way to do it. >> thank you, mr. cox and/or mr. kelly, the first two terms i was chair of the subcommittee and during that time it was acutely aware that turnover was a major problem. it was around 20%. has that improved at all in recent times? >> the overall turnover rate is 17%, which is close to that. which really -- the temporary employees. the turnover rate for temporary employees is 26%. so that's basically a quarter of a good portion of their employees. >> given the fact that it's persistent and consistently high, what kind of costs do you think is incurred in the waste that's incurred with training employees and losing them.
>> i believe i heard it cost $7500 just to train one employee. and all the other things that goes in, it's millions of dollars in the process of the year. i keep hearing, it's not good to put them on the gs scale, that there's problems with the gs scale, but that scale keeps working for all other federal employees. it seems to be tsa is the one having the greatest turnover. if we've got a wheel that's working, why not use it, put them on the gs pay scale until we figure out something better. >> the thing that strikes me, if you could save that $7500 and dedicate it towards pay by reducing the turnover, probably in much better shape. right now, regardless of what we do with title 5. i do want to end on a better note. it is important that we understand that there's been some progress made. administrator pe kosky has taken this issue on and tried to give
them more sense of duty and purpose, including opening a training center, which i think has been a very good thing. when you were doing your report, mr. neal, what were some of the things you saw that gave you hope that there's some progress being made in the workforce management areas and then finish it by telling us what we need to work on still. i know pay is obvious. what else? >> administrator is interested in improving a lot of the tsos. that was very encouraging. putting in place a mechanism for pay advancement for d band and e band tsos was a positive move. so that was good. the things that we're looking at that still are nonpay issues that need to be addressed are the per sengs of unfairness in the promotion process. there needs to be more transparency there. we recommended promotion boards so people understand what it takes to get a promotion and have a group of people not
necessarily their bosses deciding whether or not they get promoted. we think that would be helpful as well. then making some major improvements in the office of human capital to be able to really run a modern and up to date human capital program in the agency. >> mr. chairman, thank you for the time. send my heartfelt thanks to them. it's vitally important. we can't pay them enough and we can't treat them as good as we possibly -- we should treat them as good as we possibly can and need to improve on both those things. >> i concur with them. thank the employees from the bottom of our hearts doing a great job under a difficult situation. i'd like to recognize the gentle lady from florida, ms. dunnings for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you to all of our witnesses being here today as we discuss this very important
issue. president cox, i want to thank you for your commitment to your members' well-being and taking the time to speak before us today so we can hear directly from you. for the years that i have been a member of the committee on homeland security, president cox, you've consistently spoken about the strain to our tsa officers and share the long hours they work. often made more difficult due to erratic scheduling practices and spoken of the strain on officers and their families who struggle to get the wages that are so low, that are much lower than other federal employees comparatively speaking, especially when it pertains to their experience and their duties. i think that is a topic we need to continue to address until we get it right. earlier this month, tsa requested that tsos and other employees deploy to the southwest border.
i, like many others, wonder about the capacity in which they would be supporting custom and border pa treel operations. usa today reported that the 400 tsa employees will be performing meal preparation, property management and legal assistance for asylum petitioners. now, having been assigned to the orlando international airport during 9/11, i just can't believe that that would be a proper use of the men and women of the tsa, but i would like to ask you, president cox, are these duties commensurate with their specialized training and experience? >> not to my knowledge. they are trained to do the screening at the airports, to look at the luggage that goes through the screens to be able
to identify weapons, liquids and those type things. i'm not aware of any type training that the law enforcement academy on serving of meals and preparation of meals and those type of things that goes on there. >> you know, the men and women who serve in those various roles, i think we all know on both sides of the aisle that are most precious resource are the men and women who work for us. and do a very important and critical job. i personally know about the strains of erratic schedules, long hours, unanticipated schedules and new conditions being introduced last minute, so as you, president cox, have already talked about, if officers are reassigned, does
this further exasperate an overworked and burdened workforce? could you speak on their behalf? >> clearly, it does. i'm a registered nurse by profession. i understand what erratic shifts are and 24-hour-a-day operations and with tsa because the airlines change flights, there's times that the screeners come in, in the morning and maybe some flights have been canceled and they say, well, please go back home even though they showed up at 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. come back in at 2:00 p.m., work until later in the evening but we want you back at 4:00 a.m. the next morning. you can maybe do that one time or two times, you can't do that on a daily basis because people do need rest, they have child care, they have responsibilities of their family. >> you know, i heard an army general talking about how he may
lead an operation and make critical decisions, but in order to make sure that he is doing the right thing and make approximating the right choices be, he always talks to the men and women on the frontline. i think i heard you say, i believe, to the chairman that no one, to your knowledge had really sat down and talked to you or any of the supervisors or men and women on the frontline of the tsa about reassignments and getting their suggestions and recommendations on how they may be better utilized. is that -- >> you're correct. they have not. >> okay. thank you very much. mr. chairman, i yield back. >>. [ inaudible ] >> mr. cleburne, welcome. >> going to remove me as captain if i had a fight on the field.
this really does make me angry. i struggle with whether i should come to the hearing because i'm so angry, which is not healthy. as my coach said, the best players don't get angry. i need to ask a question to mr. cox. you tell me the people who stand between me getting on a plane every week, i average 1800 miles a week flying. what stands between me and somebody bringing some kind of explosive on the plane? >> the only person standing between that is the tsa agent, who is skeeng thscreening that passenger and that luggage and the pag badge going on the plane.
that's the only one that's doing it. >> that's weird. people who drive people to the airport make more than the tsa people. people who take people away from the airport make more. people who serve hamburgers make more. it's bass ak wards. i don't -- americans ought to be furious with what's going on. we pay these people almost nothing to save our lives every day. it bothers me p so we're talking about transferring $232 million to build a wall, which people laugh about. what i need to also know that maybe mr. neal you can answer this question for you -- me,
what should we do -- other than not spend $232 million or not take any money from their budget. what should we do? >> the quickest thing that could be done is appropriating more labor dollars that are targeted specifically to tso pay increases and make them base pay increases using the flexibilities of tsa got that money on october 1st and beginning the fiscal year, they could start paying people more money in october. so that would be the quickest way to get money in tsos' hands. >> we're contemplating taking $64 million from the compensation fund. i don't understand why couldn't the $64 million already be moved
toward compensation? >> i virtually any money they have, that's the right color of money can be put in tso compensation. you know, i don't know exactly which dollars they have available right now. and i'm not familiar where they want to move money for border issues. that's outside the purview of my panel. all i see on that is what i read in the news. >> if i don't believe what the newspapers are reporting -- >> i didn't say that. all i know is what i read in the news. where they're moving money >> okay. be i represent kansas city, missouri. we're one of only two airports in the country as probably mr. cox knows where be the tsos are
private. they're not a part of the regular tsa operation. kansas city and san francisco. and about 20 other smaller airports around the country. and i actually know people by name. they're not just stchtso. i know the names. one young lady i remember the morning she was born. evelyn. so when i see them getting up going out to the kansas city international airport and realizing that they're not getting compensated, it just drives me crazy knowing what that employee's job is. i could do 30 more minutes on this but my time has run out. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. cleaver. seeing no other members, we're going to move to a second round
of questions. if i can, i'll recognize myself for first round of questions. as i'm listening to everybody in the panel and everybody here, we all agree that something has to be done to give better pay to these individuals who are essentially underpaid. therefore, we have massive turnover. mr. cleaver was saying he flies 1800 miles a week. i fly 6,000 miles a week. all of us, though, agree that those are high value assets in the sky in this country every day. as i think about the pay, i got to ask, how do we move forward? what is it mechanically that we need to do? what's the next step to move in the direction of equitable pay? ip not talking just for the sake of equity. reducing that turnover, open it
up for comments from the panelists. >> put them on. gs pay scale. there's locality pay. there's other specialty pays that can be put on top of that for high cost areas. that's how it works for other federal employees. the people who have kept us safe since 9/11 so lowly paid? >> mr. neal? >> actually, about three quarters of federal employees are paid through the general schedule. a quarter paid in other pay systems. so as president cox said, there are locality allowances, there are retention allowances, there are things you can do with the general schedule.
many of them take a long time getting special salary rates approved for a particular location can take opm a year or two or three or years. it's a very cumbersome pay process. during every presidential transition for the last dozen years or so, the partnership for public service, the national academy of public administration, senior executives association, other government organizations have recommended modernizing civil service pay. tso pay is a significant problem. there are other federal employees whose pay is suffering as well. because the general schedule is not adequate to meet the needs. >> i would say, mr. neal, given what the employees do, keeping us safe, we can talk about the border, the refugee crisis, major issue, no doubt. we can debate how to address
that issue. i tell what you we're guarding against at airports is individuals who have a goal and intent of bringing down one of our planes. apples to oranges here. we have to make sure that these individuals are paid correctly so the turnover goes down so that we can remain safe, so to speak, on a day-to-day basis. mr. kelly, quickly, a couple of words on that? >> tsa has a finite amount of money to spend on all of its operations. we've issued reports recently that have identified hundreds of millions of dollars that are necessarily being spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. >> you're talking about reallocation. >> yes. >> mr. little? >> i think the adjustment is extremely important. we have to look at what's happening in specific regions. the turnover in our region in denver and nashville is extremely high.
the economy is really booming in the puget zone region and it's competitive there. we have to pay the tsos a competitive rate to retain them. >> i yield the remainder of my time and turnover and recognize ranking member, ms. lesko for five minutes of questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. what i've heard today from, i think, all of the panelists is that there is obviously a retention issue. pay is one of the key factors. i want to say to any tso that's watching, i do thank you for your service. you are protecting our nation. i know i'm old enough to know that pay is part of the satisfaction of someone's work. but also serving a greater
passion. what i heard mr. neal say a correct me if i'm wrong, is that in some market, tsos are paid a decent amount. and in other markets where competitive pay is hire, they are not. if you move to a title 5, type of pay system, it's old antiquated, inflexible. so you could end up actual liely harming more than the status quo and in some areas you need higher pay. other areas because of the market influence, you can get by with a lower pay. it depend on what area of the country that you're in.
one of the things brought up, you said the key lay between a time a tso applies for a job and when they get hired, why does it take so long? >> it's a very lengthy process. it's many steps, includes computer-based training. [ lost audio ] >> it puts an enormous burden on an applicant wanting to be a tso if they put in a job application and they don't hear of anything on it. don't actually start work for nine months. you tend to see lots of people
just drop out of the process because they need a job and they're not going to take another job somewhere else and quit that one immediately to take the tso job. that 270 days is an enormous problem. we do believe it could be shortened considerably. >> thank you. mr. kelly, was that part of your recommendation to decrease the amount of time between application and actually getting hired? >> we did recommend that they improve their hiring process. >> okay. >> do you know if administrator pe kosky is carrying out on that particular recommendation? >> they have concurred with all of our recommendations. >> okay. hopefully, if he's listening, neal work on that. i agree with you. if somebody needs a job, they're not going to wait nine months unless they're independently wealthy and can live nine months without pay, which i highly doubt. in any case, i just want to make a last statement regarding the border security because that's
come up. it is of concern to move tsa employees to the border. even though they did so voluntarily is my understanding. but it goes to show what a crisis we have down at the border. i mean, i've talked about this before. i'm from arizona. so we see firsthand the border crisis that's coming before us. in fact, yuma, arizona mayor text me, my phone saying we have x number of people in our detentions areas or charities and we don't have enough capacity and that type of thing. i've been on record before, we need to get together, democrats and republicans to try to do immigration reform. i also think right now, because it's an emergency situation, they need more funding so we can deal with this humanitarian and
security crisis. we won't have to bring tsas over to the border. with that, i will yield back my time. >> thank you, ms. lesko. i recognize the chairman, mr. thompson for five minutes of questions. >> thank you very much. not only are we moving tsos out of tsa but we have two viper teams scheduled to go to the border, we have federal air marshals scheduled to go to the border as well as other tsa employees. if they are so valuable, why can we spare them to leave that valuable mission and go to the border? we have some 5,000 vacancies within cbp and other agencies
along the border right now that have been vacant for quite a while. nobody comes and say to us, we need to hire these 5,000 people. every time cbp or anybody has ever come to this committee and asked for help, we've been gracious. i think what i see now is the continued manufacturing of a crisis to the detriment of tsa and some other agencies which should not be. my challenge, too, if i'm good enough to be the lowest paid employee in tsa but you're going to send me to the border working a higher paid job, but you're going to pay me what i'm making at the airport, something is wrong with that. you can pay me at the airport and that's my concern.
our rules allow us if the tsa requests an increase in pay, anything that come before congress, i don't think anybody would turn it down. we don't get to request. so it's not congress not giving more money. it's the department not requesting money for workers that they say they love and appreciate and all of that. so i'm as concerned about it, the pay, but i'm more concerned that now we're putting airports at risk, potentially, as well as the traveling public in general taking people away from airports and sending them to the border.
mr. cox said he had not seen any strategy or not been consulted with his over 40,000 members, what they will be doing if they volunteer. i thank them for their volunteering. but you have to have a plan. i'm not aware of any member of congress who has received anything in writing on a briefing from the department as to what they propose to do along the border with these reassigned employees. so it's difficult to support something when you don't know what it is. i yield back. >> thank you. i recognize ms. demmings. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm not sure i have one. one thing i do know is that we have got to bring some sanity back into this discussion.
our airports, our ports of entry, the safety of the traveling public, 46 million of them travel through the orlando international airport last year, the safety of the traveling public has to be a top priority. and robbing peter to pay paul to take officers from our ports of entry to transfer them down to the southern border -- we had the secretary of homeland security here a short while ago. i asked her about violent incidents at the border where cbp officers had been injured severely. she did not have the number. i would think if we had a crisis at the border, to the extent that we keep hearing, she would
know the numbers. i tried to make it easier by saying how many customs and border patrol officers have been killed in the line of duty. she first said 20 and then she said zero. we know at our ports of entry, overwhelming number of narcotic come through our ports of entry, we know we've had very volatile, deadly situations at our ports of entry. so yeah, we need to secure our borders. but you don't take from the most vulnerable areas, our ports of entry and order to do that. i think the talking points are wonderful. but we need to be really serious about our needs in terms of securing this nation and particularly shb at our ports of entry. i just had to say that.
back to mr. kelly. if it takes nine months before an officer is ready for duty, we're going to further strain the workforce by sending them to the border. that doesn't make sense. i'm just talking. mr. kill mr. kelly, you talked about recommendations made and forgive me if you've talked about retention and recommendations that were made to improve that process. but you also made the recommendations in terms of training. addressing some training issues. could you share with me how you prioritize those recommendations to the tsa? >> we didn't prioritize them. we made recommendations. we thought they were all important to be implemented.
if we expect all of those recommendations to be i implemented. >> do you know where we are in that process? >> three of the recommendations tsa has implemented. so they're closed. >> which ones are those? >> off the top of my head, i can't tell you right there. >> but three have been implemented. >> yes and we've closed them. the remaining six have been resolved, which means that tsa has recommended or given us actions that they plan on taking that we believe addressed our concerns but have not yet been implemented. >> okay. >> they have a plan to implement the other six but they have not closed. >> all right. thank you. mr. chairman, i yield back. thank you. >> thank you, ms. demmings. >> any further questions, thoughts, comments? i want to thank the witness for their valuable testimony today and all of the members here for their most important questions. members of the subcommittee may
have additional questions for the witnesses and we ask that you respond to such expeditiously and in writing. without objection, this committee record shall be kept open for ten days. hearing no further business, this subcommittee stands adjourned. thank you very much. here on c-span 3, we'll take you live to a hearing looking at diversity and inclusion in the u.s. intelligence community. officials from the national security agency, the pentagon and the office of national intelligence are expected to testify. it's just starting. live coverage on c-span 3. while there has been some improvement in recent years, the demographic profile of the