TSA Warns of Long Airport Waits if Congress Fails to Boost Pay

  • Lawmakers funded TSA raises for one quarter in fiscal 2023
  • Boosts have helped with retention, recruitment, chief says

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Tens of thousands of Transportation Security Administration workers will lose long-awaited pay raises if Congress doesn’t agree to extend them — a jolt that would drive away employees and result in longer waits for travelers.

Administrator David Pekoske laid out the stakes, saying he’s counting on lawmakers to build on funding they provided in the last annual appropriations cycle.

“If we then try to pull pay back, you’re going to see people leaving the organization quite significantly,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, adding that reversing pay raises is “just not done.”

Ellen M. Gilmer/Bloomberg Government
TSA Administrator David Pekoske speaks outside a congressional hearing in March 2023.

The proposal to extend the raises Congress approved last year may face pushback as some Republicans object to the scope of the pay boosts, and others eye broad domestic spending cuts across federal agencies.

TSA workers aren’t on the standard pay schedule for federal employees and make roughly 30% less than their counterparts in other agencies. Congress last year provided money that covers raises for a quarter of fiscal 2023. TSA has spent the past several weeks notifying workers of the pay raises they can expect in July.

The agency is already seeing larger pools of candidates for open jobs and lower rates of attrition since the pay raises were announced, Pekoske said.

Longer Wait Times

TSA is now seeking $1.4 billion to maintain those raises and related spending on employee rights throughout the next fiscal year. It would be highly unusual and “devastating” for Congress to refuse to annualize the funding, Pekoske said.

If the raises were reversed, “all the people that hung on, thinking that this was going to be their pay forevermore — which it should be — then they’re going to just make a choice and go somewhere else,” he said.

That would result in short-staffed airport security checkpoints and “significantly longer wait times” for travelers, he added.

Longer Lines at Airports Loom Without Pay Boost for TSA Officers

Some Republicans argue the planned pay raises apply too broadly throughout TSA’s workforce, including those with desk jobs, and should be reserved for security officers at checkpoints.

“I support paying TSA employees fairly and taking care of our front-line officers, but the total cost of across-the-board pay increase presents a significant funding challenge,” Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), who leads homeland security appropriations in the House, said during a recent hearing.

Pekoske stressed Monday it’s important to provide pay parity across the workforce so employees aren’t jumping to other agencies en masse.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com

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