Does The TSA Simply Have A “Truth Problem?”

This blog post was supposed to be about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the upcoming vote to unionize the agency’s Transportation Security Officers (TSO).  In the process of researching what should have been a very minor point of reference, which probably would have barely been mentioned here … the minor detail became a story in its self.

This story has nothing to do with the Unions, but everything to do with transparency in the TSA and the TSA’s seemingly being unable to have the left hand and right hand being aware of each other … even when presented with details of what hand is doing.

Earlier this week I was contacted by a TSA “middle manager” regarding three hour “Union Neutral” workshops being required for those in the position of Supervisory Transportation Security Officer or above. Once I was contacted I began looking into these workshops and subsequently found multiple TSA employees in middle management, in different locations around the country, who had taken the workshop or who were informed they’d be required to take the workshop.

Upon contacting the TSA, the unofficial response I received was that the agency was unaware of the workshops … so I dug for more specific information.

In the process of researching these workshops, I began getting some details from multiple TSA middle managers who had taken the workshop or who were scheduled to take the workshop before the 9th of March.  Once I gathered enough details, I went back to the TSA with a few clarified questions.

This is the response I received : “Your information is inaccurate. TSA Federal Security Directors are required to participate in a course on neutrality during union elections and have been directed to share guidance and lessons learned on this topic with local members of their management teams.”

The problem with this reply is that no one I had received information from was a Federal Security Director (FSD) or Deputy Federal Security Director (DFSD) … so I dug around even more information to find out that FSDs and DFSDs were required to take a one-and-half day course on the “Union Neutral” position within the TSA. Following their traning, FSDs and DFSDs are then directed to go back to their managers and provide them with a workshop/seminar/course on creating a union neutral environment.

I learned that the TSA was emphasizing the need to avoid “Ticks” that the Unions could use to appeal the vote should TSOs vote to not unionize.  I learned there is a significant focus on “TRIPS,” which stands for “Threats, Retaliation, Intimidation, Promises, Surveillance,” all things TSA managers need to avoid doing in regard to commenting on the upcoming Union vote, as well as other details about the workshops.

With this information in hand, I went back to the TSA with specific questions and was informed of the following

TSA final response to your questions: Your information is inaccurate. TSA Federal Security Directors are required to participate in a course on neutrality during union elections and have been directed to share guidance and lessons learned on this topic with local members of their management teams. “

The TSA’s “final response” leaves me puzzled for a multitude of reasons, including that they now acknowledge there is some transference of information, in a seemingly non-organized manner and that none of my detailed questions was actually answered.

The TSA’s denial of a labour related workshop, which is required when a union vote is going to occur, is problematic.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog post … my questions were for reference, in regard to writing about the Unions and the TSA.  But the TSA’s response leads me to wonder about two questions I have pondered before:

1) Does the TSA’s left hand know what the TSA’s right hand is doing?

2) Does the TSA simply have a problem being honest and transparent, even regarding the most minor detail, because it is a spiraling agency unable to control its own image?

If the TSA is unable to acknowledge staff training, that is not “Sensitive Security Information” (SSI) and related to a major labour issue that is not “SSI” … how can the agency be trusted to be truthful when larger issues arise?

A little transparency never hurt any agency … it only helps them.

I’ll leave you with this … one TSA analyst who was required to sit through the three hour workshop that the TSA claims does not exist has asked “Can I have my three hours back?”

Happy Flying!


  1. As a casual flyer I have to thank you for continuing to look into the TSA’s actions across the board.

    There are many issues that I personally do no get worked up about, but I feel much safer knowing that there are people like you who care about those issues – and know that your actions benefit everyone – me included.

  2. Transparency is one thing for certain, but a lot of trouble can be avoided with good media and public relations.

    All organizations big or small can certainly suffer from the “left hand, right hand” communications issues. I’ve seen and experienced it myself in multiple companies. That’s exactly why it’s essential to have a PR/Media communications person be the one sole lead and at the very least involved in any public, outbound communications. A seat at the strategic table and direct lines of communication with leadership is important as well.

    One person always involved means one voice, one set of comments which leads to a on-point and consistent image and reputation. Standard best practice often ignored to damaging results.


  3. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I’m 45 year’s old now. People took advantage of me when I was 12, NEVER AGAIN. If that mean’s not flying, so be it, but you will NEVER get to a photo of me naked again or get to touch me! Do you understand? NEVER!

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