Big Bureaucracies Beget Bad Behavior

One of the problems with big government is that it stimulates the worst sort of behavior from people and attracts legions of cheaters on the inside and outside.

On the outside, the more than 2,300 federal subsidy programs are under constant assault by dishonest individuals, businesses, and criminal gangs. The improper payment rates for the earned income tax credit and school breakfast programs, for example, are more than 20 percent. Medicare and Medicaid are ripped off by tens of billions of dollars a year. It’s a sad reality that when the government dangles free money, millions of people will falsify application forms to try and get some of it.

On the inside, the bad behavior of some federal bureaucrats never fails to amaze me. The official responsible for recent security failings at the TSA apparently bent the rules to line his own pockets and bullied his subordinates to silence any dissent. Kelly Hoggan was the person in charge when “undercover agents from the inspector general’s office … were able to penetrate security checkpoints at U.S. airports while carrying illegal weapons or simulated bombs, 95 percent of the time.”

The Washington Post describes how Hoggan filled his pockets with an extra $90,000 on top of his regular salary of $181,500:

The downfall of a top official in the Transportation Security Administration this week came amid allegations of under-the-radar bonuses and targeted retribution at the highest levels of the agency.

One of the practices that led to Kelly Hoggan’s removal as head of the TSA’s crucial security division is common enough to have a name: smurfing. … Hoggan received bonuses of $10,000 on six different occasions, and three others just above or below that amount, over a 13-month period…

The inspector general, in a report last year, outlined a convoluted process through which Hoggan received the bonus pay. His boss, then-TSA Deputy Administrator John Halinski, told one of Hoggan’s subordinates to recommend Hoggan for the bonus money. That subordinate, Deputy Assistant Administrator Joseph Salvator, recommended that Hoggan receive bonuses. Halinski then approved them.

As for the bullying, the Post reports:

Hoggan also was identified as one of the senior TSA officials who used forced transfers to punish agency employees who spoke out about security lapses or general mismanagement. Those allegations, first raised by TSA whistleblowers, caused considerable anger among members of Congress at three hearings held this month and last. Three of the whistleblowers appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on April 27.

“Many of the people who broke our agency remain in key positions,” testified Jay Brainard, the TSA security director in Kansas. “These leaders are some of the biggest bullies in government.”

Mark Livingston, a manager in the Office of the Chief Risk Officer at TSA headquarters, told the committee that his pay was reduced by two grades after he reported misconduct by TSA officials and security violations.

“If you tell the truth in TSA you will be targeted,” Livingston said.

Directed reassignments have been punitively used by TSA senior leadership as a means to silence dissent, force early retirements or resignations,” said [Andrew] Rhoades, a TSA manager at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The solution to the TSA mess is to demonopolize and decentralize aviation security, as I discuss here and here.

For more on the federal government’s failing bureaucracies, see here.