TSA employee call outs reach record high on 30th day of shutdown

TSA airport workers. Official DHS photo by Barry Bahler.

On Sunday, the 30th day of the government shutdown, 1 in 10 TSA employees who were scheduled to work took the day off in unscheduled absences, CNN reports. For comparison, on January 20, 2018, unscheduled absences totaled 3% of TSA employees. The record 10% of call-outs is up from the previous day which saw 8% of unscheduled absences, according to NBC.

The 51,000 Transportation Security Administration officers are considered essential government employees and have been ordered to work without pay during the shutdown. A statement from the TSA said, “Many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations.”

In addition, the TSA statement explained that 1.78 million passengers were screened nationwide on Sunday, with 99.9 percent of passengers waiting less than 30 minutes and 93.1 percent of passengers experiencing wait times of less than 15 minutes. 

The TSA provided a table of wait times at the nations busiest airports in their statement and explained that TSA screeners are doing their jobs of making sure passengers travel safely in spite of call-outs.

In coordination with airport and airlines partners, TSA continues to carry out its mission by optimizing resources, managing consolidation efforts, and ensuring screening lanes are properly staffed. Airports may exercise contingency plans due to call-outs and traveler volume in order to maintain effective security standards. Travelers should seek current airline and airport information and should allow enough time to get through the airport and board their flight

Every day, TSA officers continue to demonstrate great resilience and dedication as they report for duty, ensuring travelers get to their destinations safely. Public support from passengers, industry groups, and community organizations underscores the importance of TSA’s work in securing aviation.

Transportation Security Administration Press Release

NBC reports that the TSA is sending in members of the TSA National Deployment Force, normally utilized to prevent staffing shortages in national disasters like hurricanes and wild fires, to combat the increasing numbers of call-outs.

James Gregory, agency spokesman, says that officers from the National Deployment Force have been sent to LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He declined to say how many officers are being shifted to other airports, but told CNBC, “there are limited resources available, and our ability to reinforce airports with National Deployment Officers is becoming more difficult.”

Over the weekend, a security checkpoint at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was closed due to an excessive number of callouts causing a shortage of screeners, but that appears to be an isolated event thus far, per NBC.

Atlanta, in addition to having the world’s busiest airport, is also hosting the Super Bowl on February 3. TSA is bracing for a surge in travelers for that event.

The shutdown is poised to continue indefinitely, after President Trump’s offer of temporary protections of immigrants in exchange for funding for his border wall was quickly rejected by the Democrats.

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