Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has secured a provision in the Fiscal Year 2014 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that would reduce funding for Transportation Security Officer uniforms by about 18 percent.
Blackburn's proposal would cut funding for airport screener uniforms from $100 million in FY2013 to $82.2 in FY2014.
Funding for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uniforms made news in February, when a new $50-million one-year uniform contract was announced just two days before the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, took effect. The cuts, according to CBO, amount to $44 billion in reduced spending in fiscal 2013.
The TSA employs 50,000 security officers, inspectors, air marshals and managers. That means that the uniform contract - announced just before the sequester cuts - will spend the equivalent of $1,000 per TSA employee over the course of the year.
Soon after the $50 million splurge for uniforms, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned Americans that airport lines were already lengthening at airports due to the sequester.
"We are already seeing the effect on the ports of entry, the big airports for example," Napolitano told Politico. "Some of them had very long lines this weekend."
"There's only so much we can do with personnel and please don't yell at the customs officers, the TSA officers. They aren't responsible for sequester," Napolitano said.
One of the concerns Rep. Blackburn says prompted her to secure the cut in uniform funding is that TSA officers' uniforms currently give the public the "perception that they are trained federal law enforcement officers" - even though they aren't:
"My concern and the complaint I hear most from my constituents is that despite their appearance, TSA officers do not have any federal law enforcement training to reflect their current title and appearance," Blackburn said. "This can be very confusing to the traveling public as they interact with TSA officers at airports, on highways, rail stations, ferry terminals, bus stations, and other mass transit facilities across the country."
In 2005, when TSA screeners' job title was changed from "Federal Security Screeners" to "Transportation Security Officers," they were given a uniform upgrade and metal badges - but, not actual law enforcement training.
"We have an obligation to ensure that the title and appearance of federal employees properly reflects their training and background. Until we are able to pass a legislative fix to correct the TSA's administrative decision we need to use the power of the purse to ensure that TSA screeners are not abusing the current perception that they are trained federal law enforcement officers," Blackburn said.