Transportation Security Administration: An Assessment of Procurement Competition Policies, Procedures, Strategies, and Goals

August 2017 –The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for protecting the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. In order to achieve this mission, TSA must effectively and efficiently acquire passenger and baggage screening equipment, information technology systems and services, data systems, training and equipping personnel, and other critical items.

TSA’s Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP) contracted with the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to undertake a study that would (1) assess TSA’s competitive procurement goals; and (2) identify best practices for promoting competitive procurements.  The Academy assembled a five-member Panel of Fellows, supported by a four-member study team, to produce this report.

Key Findings and Recommendations

The Panel concluded that TSA’s competitive procurement goal is reasonable, particularly given the challenging procurement environment it faces with respect to security technology equipment. The Panel also found that the OCP process for setting its procurement competition goal is consistent with leading federal agency practice.  OCP’s ability to reliably meet procurement competition goals going forward will be enhanced by continuous improvement of procurement planning and execution.

The Panel identified practices to support effective procurement planning and competitive procurements.  While OCP has taken important steps to improve procurement planning, continued progress depends most importantly on building stronger support from program leadership and top Agency leaders for competitive procurement and planning.  The Panel recommended that OCP adopt effective practices identified in the report that can enhance Agency leader support by communicating the importance of competition and procurement planning in terms of improved mission performance, enhanced budgetary management, and reduced risks to Agency reputation. Then, in the context of heightened support for competitive procurement and planning, the Panel recommended that OCP present a plan to Agency leaders to strengthen program accountability for competitive procurement. This plan would include requiring that Contracting Officer Representative (COR) duties be incorporated into the performance plans of designated program staff and that oversight of the COR be included in the performance plans of COR supervisors.