Those uniformed folks who populate airport screening checkpoints
insisting that all your liquids are in three-ounce containers are not
rent-a-cops. They are members of the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA), a federal agency created by the passage of the
Aviation and Transportation Security Act in the wake of the September
11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Now more than seven years old, TSA
is responsible for security in all modes of transportation whether it
be by air, sea, or land, but by far the most familiar public faces of
TSA reside at US airports.
Like most federal agencies, TSA is
not short on critics. We received tips that many in the aviation world
label the administration snidely as "Thousands Standing Around" (TSA).
In our worst travel days, when lines are long, planes are delayed, and
coffee has run short, the phrase has definitely been on our minds.
then there's the gossip effect. An entire section of TSA's website is
devoted to debunking negative myths about its employment practices,
including work-related injuries, pay raises, equal employment
opportunity (EEO) complaints, and the rights of Transportation Security
Officers (TSOs) to join labor unions.
But TSA's actual
accomplishments are extraordinary by any standard. Post-911, they were
charged by Congress to begin providing airport security in 450 airports
and screen 100% of checked baggage for luggage. They were given only
one year to become fully functional and handle 500 million annual US air travelers. In the center of it all are the TSOs that keep us safe.
According to TSA's website, in their first five years of existence:
- TSOs have found more than 40 million prohibited items at security checkpoints.
TSA has substantially bolstered intelligence gathering through new
technology, committing approximately $1 billion to upgrading explosives
detection systems at airports.
- Through the Air Cargo Rule
published in May 2006, TSA has begun protecting the more than 50,000
tons of cargo transported by air in the US every day.
National Explosives Canine Team Program has grown to include 425 teams
at more than 80 airports and 11 mass transit systems nationwide.
TSA has processed more than 200,000 new applications for Hazardous
Materials Endorsements for commercial driver's licenses and conducted
background checks on the current 2.7 million hazmat endorsed drivers.
duties and responsibilities of an entry-level TSO (also referred to as
a screener) include conducting security screenings of persons, baggage,
and cargo. Their goal: to protect the traveling public by preventing
any deadly or dangerous objects from being transported into the
TSOs also assist in monitoring the flow of
passengers through the checkpoint in an orderly and efficient manner
and maintain close communication with supervisors regarding any issue
that might reveal a weakness in screening procedures.
skills needed for this job include the ability to handle screening
functions independently and authoritatively, learn to use the security
equipment, work closely with people of diverse backgrounds, and
TSOs, and all other TSA jobs, require US
citizenship and passage of a full background investigation. TSOs also
must be able to read, write, and speak English, and pass a medical
exam, physical ability test, drug and alcohol screening, and an
The job is physically demanding. Applicants must be able to stand for four hours without sitting and lift up to 70 pounds.
selected, TSOs are required to successfully complete 56-72 hours of
classroom training, 112-128 hours of on-the-job training, and pass a
certification exam. Continued employment is contingent on passing
recurrent training and exams on a periodic basis.
procedures are subject to the same Federal Civil Services laws as other
federal agencies, but the TSA uses a unique "SV" pay band system rather
than the GS pay ranges most people are familiar with.
TSOs begin at bands D and E, which range from $24,432 to $42,135
annually plus additional locality pay. An integrated career
progression program enables TSOs who have completed two years with the
agency and received a favorable performance review to enter a
non-competitive career track into bands F and G. Expert manager
positions are in bands H and I, which cap at $86,857 plus locality pay.
As federal employees, TSOs receive a full package of generous
benefits and additional benefits in the form of career coaching and
Interested individuals should go to USAJobs.com or the TSA's own employment website at TSAJobs.com to search for positions by location and apply on line.
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