WASHINGTON – Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Congressman Christopher P. Carney (D-Pa.) will be introducing legislation today to increase contracting transparency at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The agency was exempted from federal contracting laws after the September 11th terrorist attacks, however, every other major federal agency must comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulations. The bill comes on the heels of a congressional oversight hearing Carney held today on the issue in the House Homeland Security Committee.

“The least we can do is just bring the TSA in line with the reasonable contracting laws that even the Department of Defense follows,” said Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “Our legislation will provide increased accountability for the agency resulting in a competitive bidding process that will also level the playing field for small businesses.”

“The Transportation Security Administration was given a unique waiver from federal contracting laws in the aftermath of tragic events of 9/11, to enhance their capability to procure and deploy vital needs to swiftly augment our security,” said Sen. Snowe, Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “It is now 6 years since that terrible event, and in that time the TSA has shown a glaring inability to utilize the waiver to benefit American taxpayers. Instead we now have contracts well over-budget and overdue. The time has come to stop treating the TSA differently, and return to a more competitive, transparent process that all agencies must abide by. This bill will do just that.”

“It simply makes no sense that every other organization in the Department of Homeland Security - and the vast majority of the federal government as a whole - is governed by the Federal Acquisition Regulation, yet TSA plays by its own rules. Even while we are at war, the Department of Defense uses the FAR. This exemption for TSA creates an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, decreases competition, and shuts out small businesses from too many contracting opportunities,” said Congressman Carney, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight.

Specifically, the legislation repeals the TSA’s exemption from federal contracting laws and requires the agency to meet the 23 percent small business contracting goal. TSA must be in compliance within 180 days. The Citizens Against Government Waste and the Professional Services Council – a trade association for federal contractors – support the legislation.

Kerry, Snowe and Carney believe that years of contract mismanagement prove that there is no longer justification for the exemption. Over the last several years, the TSA has awarded contracts filled with wasteful spending, including a contract to Boeing that jumped from $508 million to $1.2 billion and a contract to Pearson Government Solutions that first cost $104 million and skyrocketed to $741 million in less than one year.

On Thursday, July 26th, Kerry and Snowe successfully attached similar language in the bill to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill in the Senate and they will work to keep the provisions in the bill when it goes to conference.