The Transportation Security Administration has asked some of its office workers to help security officers with a surge of summer travel at the nation’s airports, a TSA official said Thursday.
The ask, including to local administrative offices, comes in addition to a campaign aiming to hire 6,000 workers. The official said it has hired 3,100 transportation security officers — the blue-shirted checkpoint employees — so far this year.
The official acknowledged the request for volunteers from its office ranks is outlined in an internal memo, which was first reported by The Washington Post. The official said offices “have been sending up volunteers throughout the week and they’ve been accepted to deploy.”
The official characterized the request as the sort the agency typically makes around busy travel periods, such as Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the past, airports and airlines have also offered their employees to help with non-security roles at checkpoints — such as managing lines and organizing conveyor belt bins — to make the screening process smoother.
The agency is combating retention challenges it has grappled with for years, plus the stress of the pandemic. Although TSA jobs offer the stability of a federal job and other benefits like the ability to transfer airports when moving, a watchdog report in 2018 identified low pay and limited career progression as common reasons for quitting.
The pandemic put TSA workers on the front lines and employees initially raised concerns about the protocols to protect themselves.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have sought to address the concerns about pay and career progression, and the official said attrition is currently lower than before the pandemic.
At a recent event, acting TSA chief Darby LaJoye said the agency is aiming to hire 1,000 employees between Memorial Day and July 4. He set Labor Day as a target for hiring the remainder of the 6,000 workers.
The TSA initially announced the hiring campaign in February as an effort to “fill over 6,000 Transportation Security Officer (TSO) positions by summer 2021.”
TSA told CNN in a statement on Thursday that the agency “is well-positioned to meet rising traveler volumes.”
“As in years before, the agency began a concerted recruitment effort this past winter in anticipation of increasing volumes and is on pace with established benchmarks to meet hiring goals,” the statement said. “The agency continues to leverage established, creative recruitment strategies to meet personnel needs, including nationwide recruitment incentives and targeted retention incentives in strategic markets.”
The official said the incentives include overtime pay, allowing employees to convert from part-time to full-time, and a $1,000 bonus for new hires.
The agency has been receiving “over 5,000” applications every week, the official said.