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TSA Recruitment Shortcomings Regarding Background ChecksResearch Paper

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Human Resources

TSA HIRING PRACTICES AND BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS

The Transportation Security Administration was created and rose to prominence after the suicidal attacks of September 11, 2001. A nearly futuristic, painstakingly detailed Human Resources approach to recruitment of airline security personnel was employed and the recruitment process was initially promising. Unfortunately, shortcomings in TSA's recruitment process, particularly in background checks of prospective employees, became sorely obvious. The consequences including but not limited to serious criminal behavior by TSA airport security screeners resulted in multiple reviews and recommendations. The latest review and recommendations of 2015 were accepted by TSA but their successful implementation is questionable.

Body: TSA Hiring Practices

Background

Though today's Americans normally think of the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) in connection with airline security screening, the United States actually began security screening throughout the country's airports in 1973 in response to multiple hijackings of domestic flights from 1961 to 1972. The Air Transportation Security Act of 1974 required security screening of all passengers and their carryon luggage, resulting in a nearly complete elimination of domestic hijacking by the 1990s (Blackburn, Marsha - U.S. House of Representatives, 2012, p. 2). The success of that Act contributed to America's complacency and near-complete inattention to terrorism, particularly to the notion of suicidal hijacking. That complacency ended on September 11, 2001 and aviation security became a high priority for the Administration and Congress. In rapid response to the 9/11 attacks, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act was enacted by Congress and signed by the President in November 2001, establishing the Transportation Security Administration in the process. The subsequent Homeland Security Act of 2002 established the overarching Office of Homeland Security and brought the TSA under its authority (George & Whatford, 2007, p. 162). Consequently, the TSA is a stronger security entity presaged by 1990s arm of the Federal Aviation Administration.

While America was taken aback by the 9/11 attacks, global terrorism experts were not as surprised. Transportation conduits were already deemed "soft" targets for extremist attacks, though 9/11 certainly fueled increased security in four general categories: improved inspection; advanced notification; law enforcement; and transportation security funding. Inspection programs include the screening of passengers, luggage and freight. Advance notification includes the information regarding contents of vehicles, trailers and containers provided to customs officials prior to arrival at ports of entry. Law enforcement ranges from air marshals on commercial flights to additional and better trained officers at every port of entry. Transportation security funding involves direct costs of increased public security to governments and the private sector (Prentice, 2008, p. 4), which has caused ongoing debate about benefits vs. expense.

The debate about security expense has hampered the TSA from birth. Congress was hesitant about funding some TSA initiatives, swiftly limited the possible number of TSA personnel and refused to increase the TSA budget, leading to severe criticism from the 9/11 Commission in its 2005 Public Discourse Project (Roberts, 2006, p. 340). Nevertheless, the United States government was the only world power that created a new national organization (here, the TSA) to monitor security in every transportation sector and to analyze threats to transportation infrastructure in the wake of 9/11 (Yoo, 2009, p. 38). That daunting task is reflected in the sheer size of the TSA: as of early 2005, the number of TSA employees had grown to 49,200 (Jones, 2006, p. 6); as of 2011, the entity employed more than 65,000, making it larger than the U.S. Departments of Education, Energy, Housing, Labor, State and Urban Development, combined; and many of those employees are members of the American Federation of Government Employees, America's biggest federal and D.C. employee union (Editors, Bioterrorism Week, 2010, p. 44).

2. Groundwork for Effective Recruitment

The foundation for selection and recruitment of TSA employees was a nearly futuristic, painstakingly detailed Human Resources approach. Post 9/11, Congress wanted TSA to redefine transportation security and use an undoubtedly capable modern workforce; consequently, those entrusted with manning TSA sidestepped the traditional "job analysis" method of searching for candidates. Rather, they used an "industrial-organizational" (I-O) framework and National Skill Standards Board (NSSB) method for developing skill standards to appropriately select a capable workforce. According to the vision, TSA workers would be suitably skilled per definite standards at hiring and throughout their careers via annual certification, receive appropriate continuous training and be suitably paid. Consequently, in the case of airport screeners, for example, "Go-Team 31" devised an entire system to define, authenticate, train, assess and certify the pertinent skills for airport screeners. NSSB assisted the process by analyzing appropriate job skills, setting skill standards, entertaining and evaluating proposals for implementation of a selection system, ascertaining valuations, ensuring authentication of the screener recruitment program, and furnishing continuing expert advice (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 40). In fewer than three weeks, NSSB and "Go-Team 31" accomplished its tasks, using a board of fifteen I-O psychologists to discern vital competencies according to the calculated work requirements. Standards were set for both current and future appropriate skill sets by studying national and international information from prior job analyses, job descriptions, training resources, performance evaluations and existing selection requirements (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 41).

The standards set by the NSSB encompassed: the work-oriented element, discerning what must be accomplished by TSA workers and how well it must be accomplished; and the worker-oriented element, consisting of vital individual worker skills and knowledge for the job (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 42). Applying those concepts, the NSSB determined that the work-oriented element for airport security screener job, for example, includes the five critical work functions of: controlling entry and exit points; performing security screening of humans; performing security screenings of luggage and other property; continuously improving those processes; and continuously improving individual performance by ongoing training and development. Furthermore, each of those 5 critical work functions included 23 key activities and 119 performance indicators (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 43). Meanwhile, the worker-oriented element included: academic skills and knowledge in the form of reading, writing, mathematics and science; employability through the capability of applying knowledge and skills effectively through listening, speaking and problem solving; and occupational/technical knowledge/skills for using an x-ray scanner, applying security procedures, and applying security procedures (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 43). The critical knowledge/skills for the worker-oriented element included: the ability to visually observe; the ability to speak, verbally understand, read and write English; the ability to maintain an authoritative posture; adequate tolerance for stress; adequate learning ability; appropriate customer service skills; judgment skills for making decisions, assembling and examining information, personal career growth, using technology, and problem-solving; physical abilities, such as coordination, stamina, sufficient strength and manual agility; medical abilities, such as adequate vision, hearing and mobility; adequate abilities in approved search methods; awareness of safety policies/procedures; and personal integrity (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 43). After assembling this data, the recruitment team further: reviewed and refined all issues of access, diversity and civil rights; and developed a plan for systemic fairness, equal job access and review (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 44). Armed with all that knowledge and systemic justice, the recruitment team invited bids and awarded contracts for recruitment of TSA employees, piloted at three sites in Los Angeles, Chicago and Memphis (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 44). At last, the selection could begin.

3. Official Recruitment Procedures

The TSA selection system involves multiple steps, of course. The preliminary step is completion of an online IVR application whereby the applicant's qualifications are compared to minimum requirements, such as U.S. citizenship and a high school diploma or equivalent, and preferential hiring rules for military veterans, etc. Applicants who survive that initial stage are invited to further assessment/recruitment consisting of three phases. Phase I includes: orientation; completion of forms; and computerized tests of required competencies, depending on the specific job. Phase II includes: a structured job interview; a test of physical abilities; and a medical evaluation, including drug screening through urinalysis. Phase III, which is the hiring stage, includes: a security check of fingerprints, photo and background; and a job offer, including information on salary, training, uniform fitting and job orientation (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 45).

4. Promising Initial Results

The initial results of the pilot recruitment programs were encouraging. Vacancies were announced on March 8, 2002, the first applicants were assessed on March 18, 202 at all three locations, about 1,300 airport security screeners were hired in the first testing week, the first of them were sent to Baltimore/Washington International Airport on April 30, 2002, and deployments to other airports commenced on June 28th. Encouraged by this early success, TSA had 84 job fairs throughout the United States, assessed more than 1,500,000 applicants for screener jobs and hired more than 26,500 of them. As of November 29, 2002, TSA assessed more than 1,800,000 job applicants, hired approximately 50,000 and maintained an additional hiring pool of 50,000. By December 2002, TSA hired an additional 9,000 security screeners. By the Congressional deadline of December 31, 2002, the required numbers of airport security screeners were in place and were 38% female and 44% ethnic minorities (Kolstetter, 2003, p. 45). It was beautiful but something went… [END OF PREVIEW]

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