House bill would strip premium pay from some TSA officers

Wednesday - 7/23/2014, 7:53am EDT

The House voted Tuesday to strip premium pay and the title of "law enforcement officer" from some Transportation Security Administration agents.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) sponsored the TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act of 2014, which unanimously passed on a voice vote in the House.

According to federal regulations, law enforcement officers must spend at least half of their time "investigating, apprehending or detaining individuals suspected or convicted of offenses against the 14 criminal laws of the United States."

But an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general found many Office of Inspection agents don't meet this requirement.

Under Sanford's bill, agents who don't spend a majority of their time investigating crimes would no longer be classified as law enforcement officers. The bill allows the DHS IG to select which employees will be reclassified.

"These employees received premium pay and other costly benefits, although other employees were able to perform the same work at a lower cost," the IG report stated.

The title of "criminal investigator" affords officers the right to Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP), which is a 25 percent premium above base pay. Law enforcement officers also are eligible to retire with full benefits at age 50 after 20 years of service.

The IG said if TSA does not reclassify the employees, the premium pay and benefits could cost $17.5 million over five years.

"This may be a conservative estimate, as it accounts for the cost of Law Enforcement Availability Pay, but not the costs of law enforcement training, statutory early retirement benefits, police vehicles and weapons," Sanford said.

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