Transportation Security Administration:

Actions and Plans to Build a Results-Oriented Culture

GAO-03-190: Published: Jan 17, 2003. Publicly Released: Feb 19, 2003.

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Never has a results-oriented focus been more critical than today, when the security of America's citizens depends on the outcomes of many federal programs. In response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) that created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and made it responsible for transportation security. ATSA requires TSA to implement specific practices that are intended to make it a results-oriented organization.

In its first year, TSA has simultaneously started to build the infrastructure of a large organization as it focused primarily on meeting its aviation security deadlines. As TSA begins to take responsibility for security in the maritime and surface modes of transportation, its current and future challenge is to continue to build, sustain, and institutionalize the organizational capacity to help it achieve its current and future goals. In this regard, TSA has made an impressive start in implementing practices that can create a results-oriented culture. These practices--leadership commitment, strategic planning, performance management, collaboration and communication, and public reporting and customer service--are shown below. Such practices are especially important when TSA moves into the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: TSA implemented a new program structure that redefines programs in order to achieve greater synergies. Specifically, TSA's "Stakeholder and External Industry Affairs Office" works with other TSA components to establish working relationships with stakeholders to encourage open communication. In addition, TSA's strategic plan, issued in August 2004, states that TSA will work to develop partnerships with government agencies and others and will negotiate agreements with them.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Transportation for Security should take steps to continue to implement the following results-oriented practices, including collaboration and communication to achieve national outcomes that includes next steps to define more clearly the collaboration and communication roles and responsibilities of TSA's various offices and to formalize roles and responsibilities among governmental entities for transportation security.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In implementing its permanent performance management system, TSA facilitated communication at all levels of the agency, including employee representatives. TSA completed 25 focus groups and conducted 2 field surveys to get feedback on the system, as of July 2005.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Transportation for Security should take steps to continue to implement the following results-oriented practices, including performance management to promote accountability for results that includes next steps to build on the current performance agreements to achieve additional benefits, to ensure the permanent performance management system makes meaningful distinctions in performance, and to involve employees in developing its performance management system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: TSA's strategic plan, issued in August 2004, presents a strategic goal to "Ensure we gain awareness of the full scope of threats and vulnerabilities to all modes of transportation" and a strategic objective to "Gather and analyze intelligence information related to threats and vulnerabilities of all modes of transportation, and assess the effectiveness of available countermeasures to most effectively manage risk". As part of its strategy to achieve this objective, TSA is to enhance the intelligence infrastructure to include all modes of transportation.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Transportation for Security should take steps to continue to implement the following results-oriented practices, including strategic planning to establish results-oriented goals and measures that includes next steps to establish security performance goals and measures for all modes of transportation as part of a strategic planning process that involves stakeholders and to apply practices that have been shown to provide useful information in agency performance plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As of February 2005, TSA leadership is covered by the DHS SES system which is to hold executives accountable for organizational and individual accomplishments and use the results of the appraisal process as a basis for bonuses and other personnel decisions. Among the expectations each executives is accountable for are improvement in the efficiency, productivity, and quality of work and service as well as the performance of employees for whom the senior executive is responsible.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation, in conjunction with the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, should continue TSA's leadership commitment to creating a high-performing organization that includes next steps to establish a performance agreement for the Under Secretary that articulates how bonuses will be tied to performance and to add expectations in performance agreements for top leadership to foster the culture of a high-performing organization.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2003, TSA named an ombudsman who is to serve as the central point of contact for all complaints and to provide recommendations to improve agency policies. In addition, according to TSA, the Customer Satisfaction Index is implemented along with a survey designed for aviation passengers.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Transportation for Security should take steps to continue to implement the following results-oriented practices, including public reporting and customer service to build citizen confidence that includes next steps to fill the ombudsman position to facilitate responsiveness of TSA to the public and to continue to develop and implement mechanisms, such as the Customer Satisfaction Index, to gauge customer satisfaction and improve customer service.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

 

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