Foreman Forecast: So while you're waiting in that airport line ....
For an agency largely in charge of airplane safety, the Transportation Security Administration looks oddly like a train wreck these days.
Investigations have revealed TSA officers at airports aren’t particularly good at detecting threats, and their bosses have been accused of punishing whistleblowers who point out such problems.
We’ve seen seemingly endless lines at checkpoints, hundreds of travelers missing their planes and huge piles of delayed baggage.
So with summer travel looming, the head of Homeland Security and his TSA leader stood shoulder to shoulder to unveil a fancy 10-point plan to improve things. It includes more restrictions on the size and number of carry-ons. Yeah, that’ll make it better. But asked if travelers would still see three-hour lines, Secretary Jeh Johnson could muster only a tepid “Well, I’m hoping they don’t have to.”
Then on NPR he said, “We’re advising the public to get to the airport with plenty of time.” Hmm. So what is plenty? Two hours? Five? Should I go now for a flight in June?
True, the TSA’s head of security was pushed aside this week in what was euphemistically called a “management change,” but only after reports that the guy had pocketed some $90,000 in bonuses. In other words, he was doing such a bang-up job they had to reward him before they dumped him.
Johnson points to funding shortfalls and unexpected travel trends to argue TSA needs more people. But in the same breath he defends the fact that TSA officers – folks who could be helping you get safely to your plane on time – are instead working security details at presidential campaign events. No kidding.
Then in a masterpiece of hollow empathy he says, “I can understand passenger frustration.”
My encounters with TSA officers are usually OK. But the chaos of plastic bins, folding tables, shoeless passengers and Disney-like lines, has always looked like an accident waiting to happen. TSA insists it won’t compromise safety.
But here’s something to consider when you’re sweating out the clock in a security line: Incompetence has an odd way of thwarting even the best intentions.
CNN’s Tom Foreman is the author of "My Year of Running Dangerously." He lives in D.C.