An inability to advance to higher pay grades is likely a key contributor to widespread bad morale among TSA agents, according to review initiated by the agency last September. 

The TSA released a summary of the findings on Monday, but not the full report. The review was conducted by Virginia-based consultancy ICF. 

"Surveys and focus groups reveal that [transportation security officer] pay is a key issue for the screening workforce, and a complex problem," the summary says. "These officers work long hours, have difficult working conditions, and are the backbone of the TSA mission."

The report also says that a 2018 exit survey of front-line agents revealed that employees were concerned about leadership issues, including lack of managerial skills; unfair practices related to discipline and career advancement; inadequate communication; and a hostile work environment. 

According to a 2018 Bloomberg report, TSA turnover at 10 major U.S. airports ranged between 30% and 80% between 2012 and 2016.

An average non-supervisory screener makes approximately $37,000 per year, according to the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents TSA agents. 

ICF concluded that agents are especially frustrated by the rigidity of the TSA pay scale. Advancement up the pay scale is exceptionally slow, even with a strong job performance rating year-after-year. The study also revealed that the average pay for screeners is just a third of what it is for TSA employees in management, administrative or professional positions. 

The summary also identified systemic problems with TSA's Office of Human Capital (OHC). 

"The OHC suffers from a lack of teamwork and leadership challenges. Interviews with customers, stakeholders and OHC staff make clear that human capital programs are not designed in the context of a cohesive strategy," it says. 

In a press release, the TSA said it has begun implementing recommendations in the report, including reviewing current hiring, pay and advancement policies. It is also reviewing administrative leadership and supervisor practices, among other items.

"This marks an important milestone for TSA as we seek to make the agency a better place to work," administrator David Pekoske said in a prepared remark. "We're not looking backwards or placing blame. This report will give us what we need to improve, and I want to thank our front-line personnel for giving us the feedback we need for some long overdue advancements."


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