The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is launching recruitment efforts nationwide to fill over 6,000 Transportation Security Officer (TSO) positions by summer 2021.
“TSOs are a critical first line defense in securing our nation’s commercial air transportation system,” said Melanie Harvey, acting Executive Assistant Administrator for TSA’s Security Operations. “Each day, our officers screen hundreds of thousands of airline travelers ensuring they arrive at their destinations safely. We expect to screen a higher number of travelers regularly by the summer months and will need additional officers to support our critical mission.”
The call for new TSOs comes one year after Donald Trump froze hiring at TSA, which followed another pause on signing up new officers a few months prior. Overtime was also frozen in February 2020. The freeze on hiring and overtime was expected to lift in April last year, but the United States was then hit by the pandemic which saw travel movements fall significantly.
Now, based on anticipated seasonal travel trends in the months ahead and the progress of COVID-19 vaccinations for the general public, TSA has launched national efforts to recruit new employees in support of screening operations at approximately 430 airports nationwide. Targeted recruitment, virtual job fairs, and opportunities in dozens of cities have already been announced for individuals seeking part-time and full-time opportunities. Benefits include access to medical coverage, vacation and sick leave, and retirement plans. TSA is committed to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment and encourages individuals of all backgrounds to apply, including military veterans and persons with disabilities.
TSA has often struggled with job retention. During fiscal years 2016–17, TSA hired more than 19,300 TSOs, yet lost more than 15,500 during this same period. And in March 2019, a report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) highlighted issues with TSO retention, hiring, and training. In particularly, OIG cited a lack of focus on career growth as a primary cause of TSO’s leaving the agency, in addition to low workforce morale, staffing and scheduling challenges, management issues, and TSA pay scale. It is worth noting that this 2019 report made numerous recommendations with which TSA agreed and has completed work to address the concerns.
Since the OIG report, TSA developed a number of workforce initiatives, such as a two-tier performance system, the model officer recognition program, retention incentives, and TSO career progression.
The silver lining to the 2020 travel cloud was that it enabled TSA to roll out more technology at a higher rate. Focus was on checkpoint CT screening and credential authentication equipment – both of which reduce contact points for travelers and TSOs. An increase is automated and self-service processes at airports relieves some of the fatigue from TSO’s and frees up their time for other situations where they are needed.
The next 6,000 TSOs can expect a rewarding federal career as they support TSA’s critical mission of protecting the United States’ transportation systems. A “Day in the Life of a TSO” video provides an overview for interested applicants into this mission essential security screening position, and TSA’s employee stories spotlights some of the ways TSO’s and their colleagues help secure the homeland and make travel better.