TSA Builds Upon Blue Ribbon Recommendations with Focus on Pay

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced a commitment to improving some of the principle workforce problems identified in a May Blue Ribbon Panel on the agency’s human capital policy. TSA leaders have announced a focus on pay and development to improve workforce morale and retention.

The Blue Ribbon Panel found that TSA employees have among the highest turnover and lowest job satisfaction in the federal government.

The report notes, “These officers work long hours, have difficult working conditions, and are the backbone of the TSA mission. By some measures, [Transportation Security Officers (TSO)] annual pay in some locations lags well behind industry counterparts. TSO perceptions regarding inequity in their pay are aggravated by the fact that their pay averages about one-third of that of TSA employees in Management, Administration and Professional (MAP) positions.”

Entry-level TSOs typically begin at the “D pay band,” where salaries range from $28,668 to $40,954, according to TSA. Promotion to an “E pay band” allows TSOs to receive a salary ranging from $32,920 to $47,084.

Patricia Cogswell, deputy administrator for TSA, told Federal News Network this week, “We have a wonderful set of authorities under the Aviation Transportation Security Act asset that lets us have much greater flexibility in how we pay, what we pay, where we pay it, than anything the general schedule offers. What the blue ribbon panel correctly noted is TSA has not taken full advantage of all of those authorities. So for example, we can have a different rating process, we can have a different way of incentivizing longevity, we can have different pay based on locations that have higher retention issues in a way that is much simpler to accomplish, or may not even be able to be accomplished under the general schedule.”

Cogswell noted a lack of longevity pay being a critical issue within TSA. In other agencies, the longer an employee serves, the more they could get paid. TSA lacks this system.

“So this is a topic we are directly working with the administration with Congress to see what options may be available,” Cogswell said. “This is not a matter of authority. This is a matter of budget. So we will need to have support through both of those processes in order to resolve that issue.”

TSA is also looking to reform their evaluation system to improve employee morale and has created a new “model officer” program to single out TSOs who go beyond minimum standards.

“So there will be a range types of recognition that come as a result, an individual who best identifies a covert test, and accurately identifies all potential threats, will be singled out as an eagle eye,” Cogswell said. “Someone who has done absolutely exceptional work, someone who goes above and beyond in caring for one of our customers who needs special attention, perhaps because of a disability or other issue, will receive recognition through that program… Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for our officers to understand what we are trying to accomplish.”

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