Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pay For Performance; Good For Security

The next time you’re in the security line at your local airport, contemplating the 3-1-1 liquids rule or the possibility of making it home in time to tuck your kids into bed, take a quick look at the officers at the checkpoint.

Right there in front of you are some of the most tested professionals inside or outside of government. At any time, 24/7/365 TSA, DHS or GAO testers can and do test our officers’ ability to detect items that could be used in an attack. Our belief is that rewarding excellent performers is one way to motivate a workforce with a deadly serious job to do. Conversely, not rewarding mediocre performance based solely on seniority is a way to motivate people to step up or consider other career options.

Yesterday, our Deputy Administrator, Gale Rossides testified before members of Congress on TSA’s pay-for-performance compensation system. Along side colleagues from the intelligence and law enforcement communities, she clearly explained that our system provides incentives to the best performing officers. Nowhere is this more important than on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to keep its citizens safe. We thought you might find her opening statement interesting and thought provoking. For her more comprehensive, written testimony, click here.

Oral Statement
Before the
JULY 22, 2008

Good afternoon, Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Voinovich, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. I am pleased to be here today to discuss TSA's progress on our pay-for-performance system, known as PASS [Performance Accountability and Standards System].

I am honored to appear and represent the thousands of TSA employees, our Transportation Security Officers [TSOs], who serve to ensure the safety and security of 2 million passengers a day. These women and men are dedicated security professionals with one of the most difficult jobs in government. These Officers are the most tested in the Federal workforce. Contrary to what so often is the headline grabber about attrition, 22,000 of our Officers have been with TSA from the beginning. They have participated in the largest stand-up of a Federal agency in fifty years. They have stayed with us as we responded to the evolving threat by continuously enhancing the security process, while also building the infrastructure and the human capital system to properly pay, train, reward, and recognize their performance. They stayed for the mission.

There are two reasons TSA relies on pay for performance. Security is the first and foremost. Second, it is to instill a culture of high performance and accountability in our workforce.

Performance on the job has a special meaning for us. Let me be very direct. Our job is to stop a terrorist attack. Our Officers work in an environment in which 99.9 percent of the people they see every day are not a threat, but the threats against our aviation system remain. TSOs want to get passengers through the security checkpoint with a high degree of confidence that they have stopped anyone seeking to do harm—your safety is their priority.

How does PASS improve security? When you get paid more to do a better job, you do a better job. PASS is targeted to reward excellent performance. That is an incentive to perform at the highest level to which you are capable. PASS rewards the individual performance necessary to achieve TSA's organizational goals and that increases security.

TSA's pay-for-performance system is driven by validated data. Its performance metrics are standardized, measurable, observable and almost completely objective. PASS has been adjusted based on feedback from our Officers about what the real job is.

Our Officers have told us they want a pay-for-performance system because they know what is at stake: they want to know that their fellow officers are equally competent. But building a pay-for-performance system takes time. It takes employee engagement. It takes leadership. It takes flexibilities in the human capital system. It takes continuous improvement and it takes constant communication. But for us, it is essential. In my thirty years of Federal service, twenty-three of them with the General Schedule, I have never been more sure of anything: The pay-for-performance system is the best way in this post 9/11 environment, for TSA to manage and ensure the quality of persons on the front line.

The effectiveness of PASS is proven by the statistics. More than half of our TSO workforce has been on the job for four years or more. The 2007 DHS Annual Employee Survey validates that 94 percent of TSOs said the work they do is important. Eighty-three percent said they know how their work relates to the agency's goals and priorities.

TSA supervisors have a significant stake in the PASS program as well, and they are evaluated on how effectively and fairly they administer it. Successful implementation of the program is a component of their own PASS ratings.

At TSA, pay for performance ensures the technical proficiency of the people on the front line. Our goal is for our Officers to be switched on and always at the ready. Pay for performance drives their higher level of performance because their earning power is directly tied to their learning power.
The Senior Leadership Team of TSA is passionately dedicated to our people and the principles of pay-for-performance. We are committed to using the flexible human capital system provided under ATSA to make TSA a model performance-based organization. We are building a culture in which our workforce is actively engaged. It is through listening and working collaboratively with all of our Officers to find solutions that we will continue to meet our challenges.

While significant advances are being made in our technology and security processes, each day's success begins and ends with our Officers. They are TSA's greatest investment. They are everyday heroes. In this war on terror, the individual motivation of our Officers to excel is critical to our success. We rely on the best to do the best at this security job. Pay-for-performance is vital to sustaining this top performing workforce.

TSA Blog Team


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HSVTSO Dean said...

Tomas wrote:
Saying that flying is not the only form of transport is true, implying that there is any other PRACTICAL form of transportation for a vast number of needs is bovine excrement of the finest sort...

Well, it is the Ninth Circuit... :D

Trollkiller said...

HSVTSO Dean said...

This is actually something I wrote awhile back, but seem to have forgotten to post it. Found it in my e-mail when I was clearing out some old junk stuff. Ah, well. I'll go ahead and just stick it up here near the end of the thread list, because I spent a lot of time on it and don't want it to go to waste.

I am glad you did not waste it.

If you keep reading you will see that while we are not guaranteed a particular mode of transportation but we are guaranteed to be "free to travel throughout the length and breadth of our land uninhibited by statutes, rules, or regulations which unreasonably burden or restrict this movement"

While there can be reasonable restrictions to our mode of travel such as the need for a driver's license to operate a vehicle or not allowing bicycles on the freeway, the illegal forced ID verification perpetrated by the TSA constitutes an unreasonable restriction and burden.

In Gilmore vs. Gonzalez the court specifically stated that the ID policy they ruled on, was not unreasonable because "The identification policy requires that airline passengers either present identification or be subjected to a more extensive search."

Once the TSA began the statutorily illegal forced ID verification they removed the reasonableness of the ID policy that the 9th Circuit ruled on.

For the sake of argument let us pretend the new forced ID verification does not violate Title 49 1450, the new ID policy would still be unreasonable.

While denying someone a single mode of transportation like operating a vehicle without a license is reasonable because it speaks to safety. It would be unreasonable to deny that same person the opportunity to be a passenger in that same vehicle.

While denying someone a single mode of transportation like preventing them from buying a ticket from an illegal travel agency is reasonable because it speaks to economic security by protecting the consumer from purchasing a bogus ticket. It would be unreasonable to deny that same person from purchasing a legitimate ticket from a legitimate source.

In a similar vein, requiring a forced ID verification in order to fly is unreasonable because it does not speak to physical or economic security.

Chartering a boat to Hawaii or taking a bus to D.C. would place an unreasonable and unnecessary burden, depending on time frame, economics, or health condition of the passenger.

You pondered why the new ruling has not had a case filed on it yet, I may be able to help you out on that.

From the brief "To establish standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate three elements:

First, plaintiffs must clearly demonstrate that they have suffered an “injury in fact”—an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.

Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of—the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant.

Third, it must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision."

Before you can even get a chance to do the above you have to file a claim with the offending agency. The agency has 6 months to respond then you can file suit.

This new ruling is a little over a month old, we will have to wait until January or February before we will have a chance of seeing a suit filed.

Anonymous said...

If TSA thinks that rewarding good performance with increased pay should they support a system of reduced pay for poorer performace?

Say a given TSO seems to get a higher number of complaints, should that persons pay not be reduced?

For transgression that do not require dismisal some means need to be implemented to motivate the below average employee.

Fair is Fair. Reward good performance, penalize poor perfomance.

Robert Johnson said...

Quote from Gilmore v. Gonzales: "Gilmore alleges that the identification policy violates his constitutional right to travel because he cannot travel by commercial airlines without presenting identification, which is an impermissible federal condition. We reject Gilmore's right to travel argument because the Constitution does not guarantee the right to travel by any particular form of transportation."

I'm going to throw another spin on it. I think the judges blew this particular statement. Their argument basically states that because the Constitution doesn't specify a mode of travel that as long as one mode of transportation is available, that the right isn't infringed upon. In other words, if you're free to walk or swim somewhere, the government can make it hell to use any other means of travel because you still have one option, regardless if it's viable or not.

I think that's taking a pretty dim view on the constitution and ignores the others parts of it, in particular the 9th Amendment:

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

I think what the judges blew here is that the constitution is not a limit on the people but on the government. Looking at it thru that scope, I don't think their argument makes sense. So what if it doesn't specify the mode? It doesn't matter.

In essence, the Constitution prescribes what the government CAN do and where it has power to pass laws to regulate activities that are in accordance with the constitution. It was written to err on the side of the people, not the government.

While I think everyone would agree that certain regulations are needed to ensure safety, I think it's also clear that Gilmore's rights were still infringed as a lot of his argument makes sense and he was essentially denied free movement for not showing ID.

I think TSA's current stance goes way beyond that and I think it's ripe for a legal challenge. I think you're right, Dean, in that whoever is challenging it (or developing a test case) is making sure their ducks are in a row before it's challenged. Judges have a pretty crafty way of ignoring the bigger picture by only sticking with what's asked rather than looking at what's being asked with relation to the big picture.


HSVTSO Dean said...

Jim Huggins wrote:
Judges have a pretty crafty way of ignoring the bigger picture by only sticking with what's asked rather than looking at what's being asked with relation to the big picture.

Kind of like how they threw out Gilmore's entire Due Process claim due to jurisdiction grounds?

Jim Huggins said...

Actually, Dean, I didn't write that ...

HSVTSO Dean said...

Jim Huggins really, honestly did write:
Actually, Dean, I didn't write that ...

ACK! I'm sorry. Yeah, I totally misquoted that one. Oops~ Dangit, I just showed the world that I was human! :D Allow me to correct myself!

It was Robert Johnson I was accrediting the quote of "Judges have a pretty crafty way of ignoring the bigger picture by only sticking with what's asked rather than looking at what's being asked with relation to the big picture."

Very, terribly sorry.

GSOLTSO said...

Phil said "You're saying that if someone has ill intent and has familiarized himself with the security procedures related to the target of his ill intent, he is a terrorist? That's a pretty broad description.

Would the desire to have a federal agency shut down be considered ill intent? Does that make everyone who feels the TSA is an unncessary waste of tax dollars and is familiar with their security procedures a terrorist?"

Yeah, I was tired when I wrote the original post, so let me elaborate for you (as I gave you the cliffs notes version before). Adaptive = serving or able to adapt; showing or contributing to adaptation: the adaptive coloring of a chameleon.

Terrorist = 1. a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism.

2. a person who terrorizes or frightens others.

3. (formerly) a member of a political group in Russia aiming at the demoralization of the government by terror.

4. an agent or partisan of the revolutionary tribunal during the Reign of Terror in France.

5. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of terrorism or terrorists: terrorist tactics.

We can draw some basic conclusions from the terminology -

1. An adaptive terrorist can be someone from Russia that is good in camoflage.

2. An adaptive terrorist is a French person from the Reign of Terror that learned to change with the times.

3. An adaptive terrorist is a person(s) that can change to fit the situations and preparations of their enemies based on preparation, observation and prior planning. This person will also utilize terror, intimidation tactics, and outright cold blooded (and often bloody or gory) acts to bring attention to their cause or person.

Now, as for the context of Kips usage of the term, I think we can rule out numbers 1 and 2 and focus on 3. Now, this does not indicate that you (as a person that feels TSA is a waste of tax dollars, etc) are an adaptive terrorist UNLESS you begin to use terror tactics, killing people to bring attention to your cause or ideas, or attempt to use intimidation tactics to scare off the TSA. It does mean that someone trying to smuggle prohibited items with the intention of destroying, or crippling an airplane (or even taking it hostage to try and negotiate) and they have changed their tactics to overcome the procedures used by TSA and other security measures in place... is an adaptive terrorist. BTW the word terrorist has not lost any meaning, the problem is that too many outlets and sources quote the word asa a descriptor for any thug in the limelight. It has always been a broadly defined word because there are so many ways that anyone wanting to further there "cause" can use any method to achieve the desired effect(except in definitions 1 and 2, they were pretty specific in those cases)... Was that a better explanation for you?

Phil said...

On July 23, 2008, I wrote:

"1. Do the electronic strip-search machines (both backscatter imaging and "millimeter wave" versions) show operators only still images, or animated/video images?

"2. If the latter, where can we see a sample of what that video looks like?"

Two days later, Lynn at TSA quoted me then responded:

"It's a still image, not video."

Lynn and Bob, today I saw a video of a September 24, 2009, KSL-TV news broadcast about Congressman Jason Chafetz of Utah and his experience with TSA staff at a TSA airport checkpoint. From 1:09 to 1:13 into the piece, we are shown a computer monitor displaying an image that looks similar to those you've offered as examples of the MMW machine output, except that it is not a still image, it is an animated loop. Picking a single image out of this video that operators apparently see is rather disingenuous of you, as it allows the viewer to perceive far less detail than the rotating 3D view does.

Lynn, one of the following must be the case: 1) you were mistaken when you wrote that the image operators see is still, 2) that which is shown to operators has changed since you wrote this, or 3) the video in the KSL broadcast was not representative of what your operators see. Which is the case?

Add your own questions at

Anonymous said...

In light of expectations, the performance of pay-for-performance programs, by most accounts, is at best disappointing; indeed, the consequences are often counterproductive. Based on past experience in the last quarter century, the strategy may or may not be good in principle but it is certainly difficult to do in practice

Anonymous said...

The GS pay system a successful pay instrument that has stood the test of time.The GS system contains all the means necessary for the supervisors to ensure employee performance.There is a fundamental flaw in assuming that the private sector model of Pay for Performance may be applied in the federal sector: The federal sector manager has nothing at risk. There is no board of directors to which the agency head is accountable and political agendas are often driving the agency from above.

Anonymous said...

Another problem with performance related pay is that it can be hard to measure. In some industries like sales, job performance is easy to quantify through quotas and sales revenue. But how do you measure the performance of a teacher or a doctor? How do you know if a customer service representative is making her objectives unless you are there to ... See Moreobserve her all day long? By customer complaints? What about the number of customers who were dissatisfied with her service but never said so? The fact that performance is hard to objectively evaluate at times makes performance related pay difficult to fairly assess and can cause dissatisfaction and feelings of inequity in the workplace as a result.

Anonymous said...

The existing GS pay system is more predictable than Pay for Performance and attracts employees who are career-oriented and looking for more stability in their occupation.Pay for Performance creates more of a revolving door system in the federal government, as well as a ‘spoils’ system, neither of which is in the public interest

Anonymous said...

The Department of Defense is in the process of converting over 200,000 employees back to the GS pay system from a pay for performance system. They realized it was a failure as should TSA.

Anonymous said...

Of course, the intuitive thought is that people who perform better should be rewarded more, and – most crucially that people who are performing worse than me should be rewarded less. However, this rests upon the assumption that it is possible to objectively measure performance, but of course it’s not.

Anonymous said...

The climate of TSA is more fair than in the past but it has a long way to go. Those of us who have been there the longest are witness to this. HR 1881 will bring our organization in to the General Schedule (GS) pay system. The other Departments under the (DHS) Department of Homeland Security are already under the (GS) pay and management system. It is long past due for our organization to pass this bill and be under the same system as the rest of our department. I think Jim Demint's opposition is unfounded, Im not pro union and I don't even personally like Janet Nepolitano or most of the people who have been at the head of our organization. That being said the current system of management and pay (P.A.S.S) needs dismantled. Transporation Security Officers are better off in the civil service and it's about time we got there. I only hope John Pistole our new administrator will see through this farce called P.A.S.S and bring us to the GS system and civil service like we should have been since day 1 of TSA's existence.

Anonymous said...

To keep from regretting any buying decisions, I like to plan ahead rather than making impulse purchases. I usually check out a Black Friday website like to see the black friday ads weeks before they come out in the paper.

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