Tsk tsk TSA

Most of us like a good party, but few of us get to bill the federal government for it while awarding ourselves for our clever ingenuity. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) did just this in November 2003 but somehow like so many things it only came to the public's attention in recent weeks. Why is that?

See, a half-million dollar party ($461,745) would often catch our attention if say, the Bureau of Engraving, held such an affair. The details of the party's expenses include some chokeworthy items like $3.75 per soft drink and $81,000 for awards plaques. Heck, most software programs have award programs built-in and any Staples, Office Depot, Target,or CVS can sell a certificate frame for $3.95. I think they should have contacted me; I could have saved them about $80,000 on that line item alone. (And hey, I could get a darn good case price of Sam's Club sodas for what they paid for a single can.)

But the Washington D.C. Grand Hyatt affair got expensive because, you see, lodging, flights, taxis, and per diem allowances for schlepping these people from all over the country was expensive for the 3-hour event. Seems like poor managerial judgment to me when a central location outside the District, in a cheaper rent neighborhood, like St. Louis, would have been far more egalitarian.

Even better, why couldn't a few executives with the technology available today have held a live televised awards announcement for those who could tune in and others could catch it on rerun?

However, the big insult to other long-standing and hard-working federal employees was that 76% of eligible TSA high level managers got bonuses ($16,477 on average) compared to federal departments generally who gave bonuses to only 49% of their eligible managers ($12,444 on average). By stark contrast, less than 3% of TSA's non-executive employess, of which there are more than 50,000, received financial bonuses.

OK, bad party (or way-good party depending on where you stand). Who's accountable?

Well, once again, no line is forming to take the leap into the croc pit for this one. TSA's Leadership Council has some distinguished looking names associated; maybe they need to spend a little time getting 'dirty' with their troops, micromanaging a bit so that they instill some cultural norms about spending your money and mine.

But in case it just doesn't happen naturally, you can write them, you know, and demand that they take action to see that this doesn't happen again.

Jonathan Fleming is TSA's Chief Op. Officer; Tom Blank is the Chief Support System Officer; Carol DiBattiste is Deputy Administrator (with her legal and investigatory background, can't fathom that she's not getting to the bottom of this mess); and Ret. Rear Admiral David M. Stone, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the TSA.

This party aside, you need to get to know the TSA organization and these folks. . . they work for you and me.

Sometimes. . . we need to remind them.