FLEOA Weighs in on TSA Law Law Enforcement Needs

 May 3,2021 
Chairwoman Bonnie Watson Coleman
Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee 
House Homeland Security Committee 
H2- 176 For House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515 
Ranking Member Carlos Gimenez
Transportation and Maritime Subcommittee 
House Homeland Security Committee 
H2-176 Ford House Office Building 
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairwomen Watson Coleman and Ranking Member Gimenez,
On behalf of the membership of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and our members from the Federal Air Marshals Service (FAMS) and Transportation Security AdministrationInvestigations, we are submitting our views for today’s hearing entitled, "Twenty Years of WorkforceChallenges: The Need for H.R. 903, the "Rights for the TSA Workforce Act.” We ask that this letter be made part of the hearing record.
Our TSA members are proud of the work they do securing the nation’s transportation infrastructure.But over past twenty years, since their creation due to the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, have presented significant challenges to TSA’s law enforcement workforce in terms of pay, benefits, and parity with other federal law enforcement agencies. These professionals perform critical law enforcement and security missions to keep the traveling public safe at home and abroad. As such we are grateful for the Committee’s leadership in advancing H.R. 903.
The law enforcement mission of TSA has undergone rapid and sometimes inconsistent growth since the inception of the agency following the heinous terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Throughout these nearly two decades, we have often encountered points where TSA’s law enforcement agencies were underutilized, under appreciated, and often underfunded. Often this was due to budget decisions and a lack of prioritization of the important work these agencies perform. This inconsistent treatment of agency personnel has also occurred with both the pay and personnel structures within TSA for both of these law enforcement agencies. Presently, despite both performing critical law enforcement work, they are compensated and treated differently. That needs to change and FLEOA supports transitioning both the FAMS and TSA Criminal Investigators with the title 5 personnel system. In advancing this legislation, we ask that you work with us to address outstanding issues related to this transition.
The first would be the impact that the imposition of the GS pay cap could have on TSA law enforcement personnel. A key tenet of H.R. 903 is that "a covered employee converted from a TSA personnel management system to the provisions of title 5…shall not be subject to any reduction in the rate of adjusted basic pay payable, or total compensation provided, to such covered employee.” That is why we urge the Committee to include language exempting TSA’s current criminal investigators andFAMS personnel from the annual pay cap under 5 U.S.C. 5547. In 2011, TSA exercised the agency’s authority to modify TSA’s premium pay policy for law enforcement officers and eliminated the use of the title 5 premium pay cap, which enabled qualified law enforcement officers to earn up to TSA’s higher pay cap limitation, retroactive to January 3, 2010. If not specifically addressed in this legislation, FLEOA is concerned that the application of the GS-15/Step 10 pay cap as a result of the transition from the TSA personnel system to the GS system will lead to an immediate reduction in pay for FAMS and TSA’s Criminal Investigative personnel.
On a related matter, we respectfully request the Committee address lingering issues on the retirement benefits afforded to law enforcement personnel following the enactment of Section 1908 of Pub. Law115-254 ("TSA LEAP Pay Reform”). This law addressed a situation that arose in 2016 when OPM essentially forced TSA to stop calculating retirement benefits at a rate above the GS-15/Step 10 pay cap, employees whose total adjusted salaries exceeded the GS pay cap were grandfathered into the new policy, and their total adjusted salary was not reduced. However, that has not proven to be the case.When these officers retire, TSA Human Capitol is informing them that they are included with in the grandfather provision of the law, yet OPM has claimed that they do not "recognize” the grandfathered provisions. As such, OPM has been basing retirement annuities on the application of the GS-15/Step10 cap in contravention of the law and not the higher grandfathered pay. This is another that must be specified in the legislation.
Finally, FLEOA requests the Committee address two issues of importance to FAMS personnel in advancing H.R. 903. First, the Committee should fully ensure that the benefits of H.R. 903 extend beyond the screener workforce and include TSA’s law enforcement personnel. In addition, theCommittee should revise the parameters of the study to be conducted by the GovernmentAccountability Office to also examine the disparate treatment of FAMS personnel in comparison to the screening workforce, including the denial of bonus payments during the most recent government shutdown and performance awards as well as the pay disparities within the service in terms of pay rates.
As the Subcommittee is aware, TSA was created in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 attacks to fill a critical security gap in our nations’ transportation system. That gap was exploited during the terrorist attacks and remains a focal point of adversaries. This is why it is imperative that the TSA law enforcement officers are treated with fairness and parity and that their pay and benefits match the critical role they fulfill. A role, as the 9/11 attacks showed, that can’t be delegated to untrained and unprofessional personnel and must remain in the capable and talented hands of those law enforcement officers within TSA who are trained and mission focused at keeping America and its traveling public safe.
Larry Cosme 
National President 
View Full Statement Here