House lawmakers on Thursday blasted the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for doling out $90,000 in bonuses to one agency official despite a damning report that showed screeners failing to detect fake bombs and weapons during security tests.
Oversight and Government Reform Committee members pressed TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, who stepped into the role last summer, on how he is overhauling the agency in the wake of high-profile security lapses and reports of misconduct.
A Homeland Security inspector general report released in June 2015 found that auditors were able to smuggle mock explosives and weapons past TSA screeners 95 percent of the time.
Committee members questioned why bonuses, awards and other forms of compensation were granted to senior TSA officials in the face of security lapses and allegations that employees were being reassigned to other airports as a form of retaliation.
They pointed to a $90,000 bonus that was paid over a yearlong period to Kelly Hoggan, an assistant administrator for the office of security administrations, whose base salary is $181,500.
"Those bonuses were given to somebody who oversees a part of the operation that was in total failure," said Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzCongress's latest hacking investigation should model its most recent Fox News Audio expands stable of podcasts by adding five new shows The myth of the conservative bestseller MORE (R-Utah), the panel’s chairman.
Lawmakers also criticized the agency for only allowing security screening staff to receive bonuses of around $300 a year, which they said has contributed to the TSA’s inability to retain lower-level staff.
“I’ve got people that are doing the work, not sitting in an office,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) "We're screwing the guy that's doing the work.”
Neffenger, who said the $90,000 bonus to Hoggan was granted before he came to the agency, assured the panel that he has instituted “significant controls” on bonuses and other reforms over the past year.
“I don't think that level of bonus is justified, period," Neffenger said.
But Hoggan still works at the TSA, and Neffenger said he has no plans to fire him.
"I have not seen any direct misconduct by Mr. Hoggan in the time that I've been here," he said.