Share This Page

Uniform lunacy at the TSA

| Sunday, March 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Just when you think things can't get any crazier, Washington's politicians go another step higher on the lunacy scale.

With automatic spending cuts collectively known as the sequester cutting only 2 cents per dollar out of the bloated federal budget — a budget that's grown 71 percent faster than inflation over the past two decades — the federal scaremongers are rushing around, putting padlocks on the control towers at the nation's airports.

We're supposed to believe that a measly 2 percent cut in spending, something any business or household could handle if its spending was out of control and unsustainable, makes it impossible for the government to launch an aircraft carrier or staff the control towers.

Still, if we're lucky enough to avoid a crash landing without a control tower, what we'll see inside the airports is something new and special: a handsome conglomeration of sharp-dressed government employees, newly outfitted at taxpayers' expense and ready to squeeze the legs of incoming passengers and snap a few naked photos.

Just two days before the automatic federal spending cuts took effect, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it had awarded a $50 million one-year contract for new uniforms for airport screeners — clothes that will be manufactured partially in Mexico.

Last November, the nation's newly unionized airport screeners ratified their first collective bargaining agreement. The contract gives screeners the federal perk of having “more say in what they wear on the job,” according to The Star-Ledger in Newark.

So, screeners not only have “more say” about what they wear but they also got the nation's increasingly financially-stretched taxpayers to pick up the $50 million tab.

For the 50,000 employees, that's $1,000 each for the new outfits, just in the first year.

The company that was awarded the contract is VF Imagewear, owner of Lee and Wrangler brand jeans. Nice stuff, sort of like a fake Montana cowboy.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the sequester will force furloughs at the TSA and is warning of increased waiting times at airports, plus there might be no one in the control towers, but the non-furloughed screeners who are left will look good.

What taxpayers are buying for the screeners is listed on a TSA fact sheet for employees: “TSA will provide your initial uniform issue consisting of 3 long sleeve shirts, 3 short sleeve shirts, 2 pairs of trousers, 2 ties, and one belt, sweater, socks and jacket.”

That's everything but shoes and underwear. To ensure the shoes are style-coordinated with the new outfits and to help prevent agents from falling as they chase jihadists around the airport, the employee-supplied shoes are federally mandated to be “black leather with non-slip soles.”

The new uniforms will be “manufactured in the U.S. and Mexico” even though the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 specifically requires the TSA to purchase uniforms made in the United States.

The federal bureaucrats got around that made-in-America manufacturing requirement by saying that Mexico couldn't be excluded as a manufacturing source because of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Please don't yell at the customs officers or the TSA officers,” said Napolitano, warning of inevitable long lines at the airports. “They aren't responsible for sequester.”

Plus, at $1,000 a pop, they're looking real snazzy.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur. Email him at: rrreiland@aol.com

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.