Training For Tsa Officers Hits A Plateau, Or Is It A Ditch?

Recent embarrassments related to the see-you-naked scanner have inspired another round of outrage against the TSA. On top of that, there’s this unsuprising news: Many employees with the Transportation Security Administration are poorly trained.

This is according to US government auditors, who have confirmed what every air traveler already knows.

A snippet from the new audit report:

TSOs described rushing through course material without devoting the attention needed to retain the lessons. TSA officials agreed that if TSOs hurry through training courses because they are not being allocated sufficient time by management or they do not have access to training computers, they may not receive adequate or quality training.

And this:

According to an OTT official, when TSA deployed a new generation of x-ray machines to 81 airports, the updated recurrent training for TSOs with these machines had not been implemented because of software problems.

In other words, those fancy new scanners are for naught, because the TSA’s people don’t know exactly how to use them. Why’s the training so shoddy? “Software problems.” Hm.

Here’s the report’s jaw-dropper:

At one airport, TSA officials allowed TSOs to bypass the use of the Online Learning Center and provided little time for training because of staffing challenges. One lead TSO indicated that he had not accessed the Online Learning Center since 2005. The TSO also explained that staff had limited time to read printed training materials in lieu of going online. Therefore, the staff is encouraged to simply sign off on the materials and receive credit for taking the courses without providing evidence of reading or understanding the information.

Everyone gets an A!

Now that government auditors have exposed the TSA’s “Online Learning Center” approach to workforce training as, at best, a waste of time, we should ask one question the auditors didn’t: Who’s making money from it?

A quick search reveals that a company called Plateau Systems designed the TSA’s online training software. That’s chairman and CEO Paul Sparta, pictured.

Since 2004, the company has received at least $1.4 million in software licensing fees from the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA.

Plateau was evidently selected by Lockheed Martin, through the larger company’s “specialized security training” contract with TSA. Here’s what Sparta had to say about Plateau’s “innovative” training techniques, at the time:

“Plateau is extremely honored to work with Lockheed Martin on this critical, nationwide initiative to enhance national security,” said Paul Sparta, Plateau’s CEO and Chairman. “The Transportation Security Administration has taken an innovative approach to training its employees in a time-sensitive and complex environment, and Plateau is proud to assist Lockheed Martin in developing a single platform that will meet TSA’s present and future learning and knowledge readiness needs.”

My knowledge readiness needs have most certainly been met.