Former TSA official warns about government shutdown threats

A Transportation Security Administration supervisor (L) speaks with a person attending a job fair for employment with SoFi Stadium and Los Angeles International Airport employers, at SoFi Stadium on September 9, 2021, in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)(AFP via Getty Images/PATRICK T. FALLON)
While Congress walked back from the brink of a government shutdown this weekend, a former high-ranking official with the Transportation Security Administration warns there are costs for simply threatening a shutdown. There are also ongoing risks for when the temporary funding measure approved by Congress runs out Nov. 17, at the start of the holiday travel season.

“Any time there’s the potential for a government shutdown, it has a negative impact on, first, morale. These two weeks leading up to the potential for a government shutdown, everything gears toward that. So there’s a lot of administrative work … that’s not … focused on the mission,” said Keith Jeffries, vice president of Bethesda-based K-2 Security Screening Group and former Federal Security Director at Los Angeles International Airport.

“So that money … that’s a waste of money that you’re never going to get back and any field leader will tell you that, ‘Holy smokes, our mission just changed, it’s all about the shutdown,'” he added.

Jeffries led the Southern California TSA district through three government shutdowns during his 20-year tenure with the agency. He’s wary about a replay when the short-term funding ends in mid-November, as travelers prepare to celebrate their Thanksgiving holiday.

“I think the timing is calculated. I think that there’ll be more and more people watching the news and listening to the politicians as another shutdown may loom,” Jeffries said. “They want people focused and worried about their holidays … and it will have an impact, or could have a significant impact, on the holiday travel season.”

The former TSA official said government shutdowns, or just threatening a government shutdown, can have a deleterious impact on front-line TSA officers responsible for airport security screening.

“Are you really thinking about that image on the X-ray?” Jeffries said, pointing out the human impact on TSA’s workforce and noting that TSA workers may instead be worried about their ability to pay bills during a shutdown.

“These are human beings with lives just like you and I,” Jeffries said. “It … has the potential to create a significant vulnerability.”

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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