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entitled 'Transportation Security Administration: TSA Executive 
Attrition Has Declined, but Better Information Is Needed on Reasons for 
Leaving and Executive Hiring Process' which was released on October 9, 
2009. 

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Report to Congressional Committees: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
GAO: 

October 2009: 

Transportation Security Administration: 

TSA Executive Attrition Has Declined, but Better Information Is Needed 
on Reasons for Leaving and Executive Hiring Process: 

GAO-10-139: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-139, a report to Senate and House Committees on 
Appropriations. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Transportation 
Security Executive Service (TSES) consists of executive-level staff 
serving in key agency positions just below political appointees. 
Committees of Congress have raise questions about the frequency of 
turnover within the TSES and have directed GAO to examine turnover 
among TSES staff. Accordingly, this report examines: (1) TSES attrition 
and how it compares with that of Senior Executive Service (SES) staff 
in other DHS components and cabinet-level departments, (2) the reasons 
TSES staff separated from TSA, and (3) TSA efforts to mange TSES 
attrition consistent with effective management practices. To answer 
these objectives, GAO analyzed data within the Office of Personnel 
Management’s Central Personnel Data File, reviewed TSA human capital 
policies and procedures, and interviewed former TSES staff. The results 
of these interviews are not generalizable, but represent the views of 
about half the TSES staff who separated from fiscal years 2005 through 
2008. 

What GAO Found: 

Separation data from fiscal years 2004 through 2008 show that attrition 
among TSA’s TSES staff was consistently lower than the rate of 
attrition among all DHS SES staff and, through 2007, higher than SES 
attrition for all other cabinet-level departments. Separations among 
TSES staff peaked at 20 percent in fiscal years 2005, but declined each 
year thereafter, and resignations (as opposed to retirements, 
terminations, transfers to other cabinet level departments, or 
expirations of a term appointment) were the most frequent type of TSES 
separations over this period. 

In interviews with 46 former TSES staff, the majority (36 of 46) 
identified at least one adverse reason (that is, a reason related to 
dissatisfaction with some aspect of their experience at TSA) for 
leaving, as opposed to a nonadverse reason (such as leaving the agency 
for another professional opportunity). The two most frequently cited 
reasons for separation were dissatisfaction with the leadership style 
of the TSA administrator or those reporting directly to him (14 of 46) 
and to pursue another professional opportunity (14 of 46). 

To better address TSES attrition and manage executive resources, TSA 
has implemented measures consistent with effective human capital 
management practices and standards for internal control in the federal 
government. These measures include, among other things, reinstating an 
exit survey and establishing a process for hiring TSES staff that 
encompasses merit staffing requirements. However, TSA could improve 
upon these measures. For example, due to TSA officials’ concerns about 
respondents’ anonymity, TSA’s new exit survey precludes TSES staff from 
identifying their position. Without such information, it will be 
difficult for TSA to identify reasons for attrition specific for TSES 
staff. Moreover, inconsistent with internal control standards, TSA did 
not document its adherence with at least one merit staffing procedure 
for 20 of 25 TSES hired in calendar year 2006 and 8 of 16 TSES hired in 
calendar year 2008. Although there are internal mechanisms that provide 
TSA officials reasonable assurance that merit staffing principles are 
followed, better documentation could also help TSA demonstrate to an 
independent third party, the Congress, and the public that its process 
for hiring TSES staff is fair and open. 

Figure: Comparison of Attrition Rates among Executives at TSA, DHS, and 
Cabinet-level Agencies (Fiscal Years 2004 through 2008): 

[Refer to PDF for image: line graph] 

Fiscal year: 2004; 
All of DHS (excluding TSA): 23; 
TSA: 16; 
All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 10. 

Fiscal year: 2005; 
All of DHS (excluding TSA): 23; 
TSA: 20; 
All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 11. 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
All of DHS (excluding TSA): 24; 
TSA: 19; 
All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 11. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
All of DHS (excluding TSA): 17; 
TSA: 13; 
All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 11. 

Fiscal year: 2008; 
All of DHS (excluding TSA): 14; 
TSA: 10; 
All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 11. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM’s Central Personnel Data File. 

[End of figure] 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO recommends the TSA enable TSES staff to identify their level of 
employment when completing exit surveys and better document how it 
applies merit staffing requirements when hiring TSES staff. TSA 
concurred with GAO’s recommendations and has taken steps to implement 
them. 

View [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-139] or key 
components. For more information, contact Stephen M. Lord at (202) 512-
8777 or lords@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Contents: 

Letter: 

Background: 

TSES Attrition Has Declined Since 2005 and Has Consistently Been Lower 
than SES Attrition at Other DHS Components and, Until Recently, Above 
SES Attrition at Other Cabinet-level Departments: 

Former TSES Staff We Interviewed Primarily Cited Adverse Reasons for 
Leaving TSA; Current TSA Employees and Other Stakeholders Expressed 
Varying Views on the Impact of These Separations: 

Nonadverse Reasons Cited for Leaving TSA: 

Adverse Reasons Cited for Leaving TSA: 

TSA Has Taken Steps to Manage TSES Attrition by Affording Separating 
TSES Staff the Opportunity to Complete an Exit Survey and Decreasing 
Its Use of Limited Term Appointments, but Limited Exit Survey Data May 
Hinder Efforts: 

Conclusions: 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology: 

Appendix II: Transportation Security Executive Service Staff Attrition 
Data: 

Appendix III: Transportation Security Administration National Exit 
Survey: 

Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of Homeland Security: 

Appendix V: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

Tables: 

Table 1: Differences between OPM and TSA Policies and Procedures 
Related to Executive Staff: 

Table 2: Number of Executive-level Staff Employed per Thousand 
Nonexecutive Staff at DHS Agencies and TSA for Fiscal Years 2005 
through 2008: 

Table 3: Total TSES Headquarters and Field Staff, Fiscal Years 2004 
through 2008a: 

Table 4: Number of TSES Staff Who Left TSA from Fiscal Years 2004 
through 2008, by Type of Separation: 

Table 5: Reasons for Leaving TSA Sited by Former TSES Staff Members a 
(N=46): 

Table 6: Number of New Limited Term TSES Appointments and Total New 
TSES Appointments for Fiscal Years 2004 through 2008: 

Table 7: Number of Hiring Decisions for TSES Positions Filled in 
Calendar Years 2006 and 2008 for which TSA Documentation of Merit 
Staffing Procedures Was Missing or Unclear: 

Table 8: TSES Staff Who Separated from Fiscal Years 2005 through 2008 
Possessing Selection Criteria Characteristics: 

Table 9: Fiscal Years 2005 through 2008 Separated TSES Staff Members' 
Cited Reasons for Leaving TSA: 

Table 10: Seven Key Merit Staffing Requirements: 

Table 11: Fiscal Year 2004 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Table 12: Fiscal Year 2004 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-level Departments: 

Table 13: Fiscal Year 2005 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Table 14: Fiscal Year 2005 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-level Departments: 

Table 15: Fiscal Year 2006 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Table 16: Fiscal Year 2006 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-Level Departments: 

Table 17: Fiscal Year 2007 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Table 18: Fiscal Year 2007 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-level Departments: 

Table 19: Fiscal Year 2008 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Table 20: Fiscal Year 2008 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-Level Departments: 

Figures: 

Figure 1: Comparison of Attrition Rates among All TSES Staff, 
Headquarters TSES staff, and Field TSES staff, for Fiscal Years 2004 
through 2008: 

Figure 2: Comparison of Attrition Rates among Executives at TSA, DHS, 
and Other Cabinet-level Agencies (Fiscal Years 2004 through 2008): 

Figure 3: Comparison of Rates of Resignation among Executives at TSA, 
DHS, and Other Cabinet-level Agencies (Fiscal Years 2004 through 2008): 

[End of section] 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

October 9, 2009: 

The Honorable Robert C. Byrd: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable George V. Voinovich: 
Ranking Member: 
Subcommittee on Homeland Security: 
Committee on Appropriations: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable David E. Price: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Harold Rogers: 
Ranking Member: 
Subcommittee on Homeland Security: 
Committee on Appropriations: 
House of Representatives: 

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the 
President signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) 
into law on November 19, 2001, establishing the Transportation Security 
Administration (TSA) as the agency responsible for securing the 
nation's transportation systems, including civil aviation, highways, 
railroads, buses, mass transit systems, ports, and pipelines.[Footnote 
1] Immediately after its formation, TSA began assembling a cadre of 
senior-level career staff to help establish the new agency. These staff 
members became part of the agency's Transportation Security Executive 
Service (TSES), which--similar to the Senior Executive Service (SES) of 
other executive branch agencies--is comprised of individuals selected 
for their executive leadership experience and subject area expertise to 
serve in key agency positions just below presidential appointees. 

In June 2007, a report of the Committee on Appropriations of the House 
of Representatives noted that TSA had frequent and sustained attrition 
within its TSES ranks, resulting in a lack of historical knowledge 
about the programs and policies of the agency.[Footnote 2] We have also 
reported that the extensive loss of experienced workers can lead to 
critical gaps in an agency's leadership, skills, and institutional 
knowledge.[Footnote 3] Due to its concern over TSA executive turnover, 
the Committee, in its report, encouraged TSA to take appropriate 
measures to build a stable, senior executive workforce so that when a 
change in political administration occurs, the agency can continue 
operating throughout the transition period without a diminution in 
transportation security oversight. Subsequently, the explanatory 
statement accompanying the DHS Appropriations Act, 2008, directed GAO 
to examine attrition--defined in this report as any type of separation 
from service (e.g., resignation, retirement, transfer)--among TSES 
staff since the agency's formation.[Footnote 4] Accordingly, this 
report addresses the following questions: 

1. What has been the attrition rate among TSES staff for fiscal years 
2004 through 2008, and how does it compare to attrition among SES staff 
in other DHS components and cabinet-level departments?[Footnote 5] 

2. What reasons did former TSES staff provide for leaving TSA, and how 
do current TSA officials and industry stakeholders view the impact of 
TSES attrition on TSA's operations? 

3. To what extent are current TSA efforts to manage TSES attrition 
consistent with effective human capital practices and standards for 
internal control in the federal government?[Footnote 6] 

To address the first objective, we obtained fiscal year 2004 through 
2008 data from the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) Central 
Personnel Data File (CPDF) to determine the rate of attrition among 
TSES staff and SES staff in other DHS components and cabinet-level 
departments.[Footnote 7] We selected this time period because 2004 was 
the first full fiscal year during which TSA was a part of DHS after 
transferring from the Department of Transportation in March 2003, and 
2008 was the most recently completed fiscal year for which attrition 
data were available in CPDF. To calculate attrition rates, we divided 
the total number of TSES who separated in a given fiscal year by the 
average number of TSES employed by the agency for that fiscal year. 
[Footnote 8] For these calculations, we included all separation types--
that is, the manner in which the TSES or SES staff member left the 
agency or department, such as through resignation, transfer to another 
cabinet-level department, retirement, termination, and expiration of a 
term appointment.[Footnote 9] However, we did not include transfers 
from TSA to other SES positions within DHS because this information was 
not readily identifiable within CPDF data. We found CPDF data 
sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this study. In addition to 
calculating the overall rate of attrition for TSA, DHS, and cabinet-
level departments, we also calculated attrition rates for each 
separation type. To place TSA's senior executive attrition rate in 
context, we compared it to the overall DHS SES attrition rate 
(excluding TSA) and the overall SES attrition rate for all other 
cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS). 

To obtain data on the reasons why former TSES chose to separate from 
TSA, we conducted interviews with 46 TSES staff who left the agency 
during fiscal years 2005 through 2008. To identify interviewees, we 
obtained a list from TSA of all TSES staff who left the agency during 
fiscal years 2005 through 2008--a total of 95 individuals.[Footnote 10] 
From this list, we ultimately selected a nonprobability sample of 46 
individuals for interviews in order to achieve diversity among the 
following three characteristics--fiscal year of separation (2005 
through 2008), manner of separation (resignations, retirements, etc.), 
and job location (headquarters or field).[Footnote 11] To categorize 
the reasons why the 46 TSES staff separated, we conducted a content 
analysis of their responses to our open-ended interview question asking 
them to describe the reasons why they left the agency. Although our 
sample did not allow us to generalize about the reasons for all TSES 
separations from fiscal years 2005 through 2008, it did provide us with 
the perspectives on why nearly half of these TSES staff left TSA. To 
obtain information on the impact of TSES staff attrition on agency 
operations, we conducted interviews with 22 TSA staff who were direct 
reports to--that is, staff who were directly supervised by--at least 
one of the TSES staff who separated from TSA during fiscal years 2005 
through 2008, as well as 7 TSA officials who had supervised at least 
one of these former TSES staff members.[Footnote 12] To obtain 
perspectives on how TSES attrition may have impacted TSA's ability to 
work with stakeholders, we obtained information from seven industry 
associations representing various transportation sectors that 
collaborate with TSA on transportation security initiatives--three 
aviation, one surface, and three maritime associations. We identified 
these associations based upon our existing knowledge of contacts at 
various associations and by canvassing GAO's team of transportation 
security analysts for additional contacts. The results of our 
interviews with direct reports, supervisors, and industry stakeholders 
are not generalizable, but do provide a range of perspectives on the 
impact of TSES attrition. 

To gather information on the extent to which current TSA efforts to 
manage TSES attrition are consistent with effective human capital 
practices and internal control standards, we first reviewed past GAO 
reports identifying effective human capital practices as well as the 
standards for internal controls in the federal government.[Footnote 13] 
We also reviewed applicable OPM regulations addressing merit staffing. 
[Footnote 14] We conducted interviews with TSA human capital officials 
on efforts underway and reviewed relevant documentation, such as TSA's 
exit interview protocols (past and planned), completed exit interviews 
with separated staff, succession plans, and procedures for hiring TSES 
staff which incorporate merit staffing requirements. We also reviewed 
all case files containing documentation of the merit staffing 
procedures TSA followed for the competitive selection of all 
individuals for career TSES appointments from March 2006--when TSA 
established its hiring process--through the end of calendar year 2006 
and for all of calendar year 2008.[Footnote 15] 

We conducted this performance audit from April 2008 to October 2009 in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those 
standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain 
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our 
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that 
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our objectives. Additional details on our scope 
and methodology are included in appendix I. 

Background: 

Human Capital Authorities and Flexibilities Available to TSA with 
Regard to Its Executive Staff: 

ATSA applied the personnel management system of the Federal Aviation 
Administration (FAA) to TSA employees, and further authorized TSA to 
make any modifications to the system it considered necessary.[Footnote 
16] Therefore, similar to FAA, TSA is exempt from many of the 
requirements imposed and enforced by OPM--the agency responsible for 
establishing human capital policies and regulations for the federal 
government--and, thus, has more flexibility in managing its executive 
workforce than many other federal agencies.[Footnote 17] For example, 
compared to agencies operating under OPM's regulations, TSA is not 
limited in the number of permanent TSES appointments and limited term 
TSES appointments it may make and the types of positions limited term 
TSES appointments may be used for. Also, TSA has more discretion in 
granting recruitment, relocation, or retention incentives to TSES staff 
than other agencies have for SES staff (see table 1). 

Table 1: Differences between OPM and TSA Policies and Procedures 
Related to Executive Staff[A]: 

Categories of executive service policies and procedures: Types of 
executive appointments; 
Policies and procedures related to executive staff at OPM-regulated 
agencies: There are four types of executive appointments: 
Career: an appointment in which the SES must be selected through merit 
staffing and have executive core qualifications (ECQs) approved by OPM; 
career appointees may fill any agency position, and may move to SES 
positions at other agencies without undergoing merit staffing or ECQ 
approval[B]; 
Noncareer: an appointment in which the SES may be selected through 
merit staffing and does not have ECQs approved by OPM; noncareer 
appointees may only fill certain positions approved for noncareer 
appointments; 
Limited term: an appointment in which the SES does not have to be 
selected through merit staffing or have ECQs approved by OPM; 
appointees may only fill certain positions for a limited duration; 
Limited emergency: an appointment in which the SES does not have to be 
selected through merit staffing or have ECQs approved by OPM; 
appointees may only fill certain designated positions established to 
meet an unanticipated, urgent need; 
Policies and procedures related to executive staff at TSA: There are 
two types of executive appointments: 
Career: an appointment in which the TSES must be selected through merit 
staffing and have ECQs approved by OPM; career TSES appointees may fill 
any agency position and may move to SES positions at other agencies, 
pursuant to the OPM-DHS interchange agreement, without undergoing merit 
staffing or ECQ approval; 
Limited term: an appointment in which the TSES does not have to be 
selected through merit staffing or have ECQs approved; limited term 
appointees may fill any position in the agency, but may not move to 
another SES position outside of the agency without first being selected 
through merit staffing and having their ECQs approved by OPM. 

Categories of executive service policies and procedures: Duration of 
limited term appointments; 
Policies and procedures related to executive staff at OPM-regulated 
agencies: Limited term appointments are up to 3 years in length. 
Limited emergency appointments are up to 18 months in length; 
Policies and procedures related to executive staff at TSA: No limit on 
the duration of limited term appointments, but TSA has self-imposed a 3-
year limit[C]. 

Categories of executive service policies and procedures: Limitations on 
term appointments as a percentage of total executive positions; 
Policies and procedures related to executive staff at OPM-regulated 
agencies: Noncareer appointments cannot exceed 25 percent of the number 
of SES positions allocated to the agency and 10 percent of the number 
of SES positions governmentwide. Limited term appointments cannot 
exceed 5 percent of the number of SES positions governmentwide. By 
regulation, agencies may approve limited appointments up to 3 percent 
of the agencies' allotted number of SES positions. OPM approval is 
required for additional appointments; 
Policies and procedures related to executive staff at TSA: No limit on 
the number of term appointments. 

Categories of executive service policies and procedures: Compensation 
Ceiling; 
Policies and procedures related to executive staff at OPM-regulated 
agencies: For SES under an appraisal system certified by OPM and the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as making distinctions in pay 
based upon performance, the pay cap is Level II of the Executive 
Scheduled, ($177,000 in 2009). For SES who are not under a certified 
appraisal system, the pay cap is Level III of the Executive Schedule 
($162,900 in 2009). SES pay is subject to an aggregate limitation on 
pay plus pay incentives (such as cash award for performance or 
retention bonus) up to Level I of the Executive Schedule ($196,700) or 
up to the Vice President's salary ($227,300 in 2009) for an SES member 
under an appraisal system certified OPM and OMB; 
Policies and procedures related to executive staff at TSA: The TSES 
maximum rate of basic pay is equal to that of Level II of the Executive 
Schedule. TSES pay is generally subject to an aggregate limitation on 
pay plus pay incentives (such as cash award for performance or 
retention bonus) up to the Vice President's salary ($227,300 in 2009). 
For unique circumstances, the TSA Assistant Administrator of the Office 
of Human Capital may waive the limit on aggregate pay up to $250,000, 
but only for the purposes of a recruitment, relocation, or retention 
incentive. 

Source: GAO analysis of TSA and OPM guidance on senior executive 
programs. 

[A] The table does not identify and describe all differences in human 
capital policies applicable to the TSES and the SES of other agencies. 

[B] Pursuant to merit staffing requirements, which OPM established by 
regulation, agencies must provide for fair and open competition in 
their hiring process (by, for example, requiring that all candidates be 
evaluated against stated position requirements). See 5 C.F.R. pt. 317. 
Qualifications review boards (QRB) are convened by OPM and are 
responsible for reviewing and approving applicants' executive core 
qualifications (ECQ)--five executive skill sets (leading change, 
leading people, results driven, business acumen, and building 
coalitions) that OPM has determined are needed to succeed in a variety 
of SES positions. To be evaluated by a QRB, candidates submit written 
narratives identifying how they have demonstrated proficiency in each 
of the ECQs over their career. SES and TSES staff members who have been 
selected through merit staffing and who have had their ECQs approved by 
a QRB are considered to have been "competitively placed." As such, 
these individuals are no longer subject to the merit staffing and ECQ 
approval processes for any subsequent position once they fulfill a 
probationary assignment period. 

[C] TSA began limiting limited term appointments to 3 years in 2006; 
prior to this period, some appointments may have been made for 
different lengths of time. 

[D] By statute, maximum rates for SES and senior federal government 
employees are defined by reference to the Executive Schedule, which 
consists of five pay levels - Level I through Level V, and applies to 
positions identified in 5 U.S.C. § 5312 through § 5316. Level I 
encompasses the highest level of executive pay ($196,700 for 2009); 
Level II encompasses the second highest ($177,000 for 2009), etc. 

[End of table] 

One benefit available to career-appointed SES in OPM-regulated agencies 
is that once they are accepted into the SES of their agency, they can 
apply for and obtain SES positions in other OPM-regulated executive 
branch agencies without undergoing the merit staffing process. DHS and 
OPM signed an agreement in February 2004 which also allows career- 
appointed TSES staff the benefit of applying to SES positions without 
being subject to the merit staffing process. Under the provisions of 
the agreement, TSA must ensure that all TSES staff selected for their 
first career TSES appointment (1) are hired using a process that 
encompasses merit staffing principles and (2) undergo the ECQ- 
evaluation process.[Footnote 18] Consistent with OPM regulations, 
[Footnote 19] a hiring process that encompasses federal merit staffing 
requirements should include: 

* public notice of position availability, 

* identification of all minimally eligible candidates, 

* identification of position qualifications,[Footnote 20] 

* rating and ranking of all eligible candidates using position 
qualifications,[Footnote 21] 

* determination of the best qualified candidates (a "best qualified 
list"),[Footnote 22] 

* selection of a candidate for the position from among those best 
qualified, and: 

* certification of a candidate's executive and technical 
qualifications. 

TSES Positions within TSA: 

TSA has consistently employed more senior executives than any other DHS 
component agency; however, as shown in table 2, from fiscal years 2005 
through 2008, TSA went from being one of the DHS components with the 
highest numbers of executive staff per nonexecutive staff, to one of 
the components with the fewest executive staff per nonexecutive staff. 
Specifically, out of eight DHS components, TSA had the third highest 
number of executives per nonexecutive staff in 2005; however, by fiscal 
year 2008, TSA had the third lowest number of executives per 
nonexecutive staff. Compared with DHS overall, TSA had the same number 
of executive per nonexecutive staff as DHS in 2005, but over the 4-year 
period, the number of TSA executive to nonexecutive staff declined, 
while that of DHS increased. Moreover, the number of TSA executive 
staff per nonexecutive staff was consistently lower than that of all 
cabinet-level departments for fiscal years 2005 through 2008 (see table 
2). 

Table 2: Number of Executive-level Staff Employed per Thousand 
Nonexecutive Staff at DHS Agencies and TSA for Fiscal Years 2005 
through 2008: 

DHS components or departments[A]: Transportation Security 
Administration; 
FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 160; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.7; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 144; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.5; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 139; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.4; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 144; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.4. 

DHS components or departments[A]: U.S. Customs and Border Protection; 
FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 58; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.4; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 67; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.6; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 74; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.6; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 89; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.8. 

DHS components or departments[A]: U.S. Secret Service; 
FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 39; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 5.9; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 41; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 6.2; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 45; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 6.8; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 47; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 7.1. 

DHS components or departments[A]: Federal Emergency Management Agency; 
FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 33; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.5; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 35; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.4; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 43; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.9; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 54; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 3.3. 

DHS components or departments[A]: Immigration and Customs Enforcement; 
FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 31; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.0; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 33; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.2; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 42; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.6; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 51; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.9. 

DHS components or departments[A]: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration 
Services; 
FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 16; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.8; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 16; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.8; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 24; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.8; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 41; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 4.3. 

DHS components or departments[A]: US. Coast Guard; 
FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 8; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.1; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 8; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.0; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 9; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.2; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 12; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 1.5. 

DHS components or departments[A]: DHS Headquarters[C]; 
FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 35; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 90.8; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 50; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 58.9; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 76; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 57.4; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 102; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 63.9. 

DHS components or departments[A]: Department of Homeland Security 
(excluding TSA); 
FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 278; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.7; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 306; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 2.8; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 365; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 3.3; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 446; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 4.0. 

DHS components or departments[A]: Cabinet-level departments (excluding 
DHS); FY 2005: Average number of executives[B]: 6289; 
FY 2005: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 4.1; 
FY 2006: Average number of executives: 6403; 
FY 2006: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 4.1; 
FY 2007: Average number of executives: 6575; 
FY 2007: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 4.3; 
FY 2008: Average number of executives: 6791; 
FY 2008: Executives per thousand nonexecutive staff: 4.3. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] The first eight entities in this table are a selection of DHS 
components and do not account for all DHS SES positions; however, all 
DHS SES positions are accounted for within figures for the Department 
of Homeland Security (which immediately follows the eight DHS 
components). 

[B] For each fiscal year, the average number of executives was 
calculated by averaging (1) the number of senior executive staff in the 
CPDF as of the last pay period of the fiscal year prior to the fiscal 
year for which the average is being calculated and (2) the number of 
senior executive staff in CPDF as of the last pay period of the fiscal 
year for which the average is being calculated. 

[C] DHS Headquarters is a distinct component within CPDF data which 
includes all DHS executive staff in positions serving departmentwide 
functions, such as those involving financial or human capital 
management. 

[End of table] 

TSA has employed approximately equal numbers of TSES staff in both 
headquarters and in the field, where its operational mission of 
securing the nation's transportation system is carried out (see table 
3). TSES positions in the field include federal security directors 
(FSDs) who are responsible for implementing and overseeing security 
operations, including passenger and baggage screening, at TSA-regulated 
airports; area directors, who supervise and provide support and 
coordination of federal security directors in the field; special agents 
in charge, who are part of the Federal Air Marshal Service and 
generally located at airports to carry out investigative activities; 
and senior field executives, who work with FSDs and other federal, 
state, and local officials to manage operational requirements across 
transportation modes. Headquarters executive positions generally 
include officials responsible for managing TSA divisions dedicated to 
internal agency operations, such as the Office of Human Capital or the 
Office of Legislative Affairs, and external agency operations, such as 
the Office of Security Operations and the Office of Global Strategies. 
[Footnote 23] 

Table 3: Total TSES Headquarters and Field Staff, Fiscal Years 2004 
through 2008A: 

Fiscal year: 2004; 
Total TSES staff headquarters: 71; 
Total TSES staff field: 83. 

Fiscal year: 2005; 
Total TSES staff headquarters: 76; 
Total TSES staff field: 84. 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
Total TSES staff headquarters: 67; 
Total TSES staff field: 77. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
Total TSES staff headquarters: 72; 
Total TSES staff field: 68. 

Fiscal year: 2008; 
Total TSES staff headquarters: 77; 
Total TSES staff field: 68. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] CPDF data do not identify whether TSES staff work in headquarters 
or in the field, but do include codes that identify the physical 
location of each TSES position. We used these codes to determine the 
number of field and headquarters staff for each fiscal year, and also 
had TSA review and confirm our results. See appendix I for more detail. 

[End of table] 

TSES Attrition Has Declined Since 2005 and Has Consistently Been Lower 
than SES Attrition at Other DHS Components and, Until Recently, Above 
SES Attrition at Other Cabinet-level Departments: 

TSES attrition for fiscal years 2004 through 2008 was at its highest 
(20 percent) in fiscal year 2005, due to a surge in resignations for 
that fiscal year. The rate of attrition among TSES staff for fiscal 
years 2004 through 2008 was consistently lower than the rate of 
attrition among all DHS SES, but, until 2008, higher than the SES 
attrition rate for all other cabinet-level departments. TSA human 
capital officials acknowledge that attrition among TSES staff has been 
high in the past--which they attribute to the frequent turnover in 
administrators the agency experienced from its formation in fiscal year 
2002 through mid-2005--and noted that since TSA has had more stable 
leadership, attrition has declined. 

TSES Attrition Peaked in Fiscal Year 2005, Primarily Due to Staff 
Resignations, and Has Since Declined: 

CPDF data for fiscal years 2004 through 2008 show that attrition among 
TSES staff rose from fiscal year 2004 to fiscal year 2005--peaking at 
20 percent in fiscal year 2005--and has declined each year thereafter, 
measuring 10 percent in 2008. Attrition includes separations due to 
resignations, retirements, expiration of a limited term appointment, 
terminations, or transfers to another cabinet-level department. The 
rate of attrition among TSES headquarters staff was generally more than 
double that of TSES staff in the field. Specifically, in fiscal years 
2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008, TSES attrition in headquarters was 26, 28, 
28, and 14 percent respectively, compared to TSES attrition in the 
field, which was 8, 13, 10, and 6 percent respectively (see figure 1). 

Figure 1: Comparison of Attrition Rates among All TSES Staff, 
Headquarters TSES Staff, and Field TSES Staff, for Fiscal Years 2004 
through 2008A: 

[Refer to PDF for image: line graph] 

Fiscal year: 2004; 
TSES TSA total attrition rate: 16; 
TSES Headquarters attrition rate: 26; 
TSES Field attrition rate: 8. 

Fiscal year: 2005; 
TSES TSA total attrition rate: 20; 
TSES Headquarters attrition rate: 28; 
TSES Field attrition rate: 13. 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
TSES TSA total attrition rate: 19; 
TSES Headquarters attrition rate: 28; 
TSES Field attrition rate: 10. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
TSES TSA total attrition rate: 13; 
TSES Headquarters attrition rate: 10; 
TSES Field attrition rate: 16. 

Fiscal year: 2008; 
TSES TSA total attrition rate: 10; 
TSES Headquarters attrition rate: 14; 
TSES Field attrition rate: 6. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM’s Central Personnel Data File and 
TSA data. 

[A] Regarding the field TSES attrition figures, 7 of 83 field staff 
separated in 2004; 11 of 84 in 2005; 8 of 77 in 2006; 11 of 68 in 2007; 
and 4 of 68 in 2008. Regarding the headquarters TSES attrition figures, 
18 of 71 headquarters staff separated in 2004; 21 out of 76 in 2005; 18 
out of 67 in 2006; 7 out of 72 in 2007; and 11 out of 77 in 2008. 

[End of figure] 

With regard to the manner in which TSES separated (through resignation, 
retirement, expiration of a limited term appointment, termination, or 
transfer to another cabinet-level department), our analysis of CPDF 
data shows that resignations were the most frequent type of TSES 
separation, accounting for almost half of total separations over the 5- 
year period and about two thirds of all separations during fiscal years 
2005 and 2006 (see table 4). [Footnote 24] Also, over the 5-year 
period, transfers and retirements tied for the second-most frequent 
type of TSES separation, while expiration of a limited term appointment 
and "other" were the least common separation types for TSES. 

Table 4: Number of TSES Staff Who Left TSA from Fiscal Years 2004 
through 2008, by Type of Separation: 

Type of separation: Resignations; 
FY04: 9; 
FY05: 20; 
FY06: 18; 
FY07: 6; 
FY08: 4; 
Total: 57. 

Type of separation: Transfers; 
FY04: 8; 
FY05: 4; 
FY06: 2; 
FY07: 2; 
FY08: 5; 
Total: 22. 

Type of separation: Retirements; 
FY04: 3; 
FY05: 4; 
FY06: 4; 
FY07: 6; 
FY08: 5; 
Total: 22. 

Type of separation: Terminations; 
FY04: 4; 
FY05: 3; 
FY06: 2; 
FY07: 1; 
FY08: 0; 
Total: 10. 

Type of separation: Expiration of a limited term appointment; 
FY04: 1; 
FY05: 0; 
FY06: 0; 
FY07: 2; 
FY08: 1; 
Total: 4. 

Type of separation: Other[A]; 
FY04: 0; 
FY05: 1; 
FY06: 0; 
FY07: 1; 
FY08: 0; 
Total: 2. 

Type of separation: Total separations; 
FY04: 25; 
FY05: 32; 
FY06: 27; 
FY07: 18; 
FY08: 15; 
Total: 117. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] "Other" includes very infrequent types of attrition, such as the 
death of an employee. 

[End of table] 

TSA human capital officials acknowledged that attrition among TSES 
staff has been high at certain points in TSA's history. They noted that 
frequent turnover in administrators since TSA's creation in 2002 
through mid-2005 was the likely catalyst for much TSES attrition, and 
that once Administrator Hawley, who served the longest term of any TSA 
Administrator, was appointed, attrition among TSES staff declined. 
[Footnote 25] 

Attrition among TSES Has Been Lower than that of All Other DHS SES, but 
Until Fiscal Year 2008, Higher than SES Attrition among Other Cabinet- 
level Departments: 

As shown in figure 2, the rate of attrition among TSES staff for fiscal 
years 2004 through 2008 was consistently lower than the rate of 
attrition among all DHS SES. On the other hand, from fiscal years 2004 
through 2006, the TSES rate of attrition was higher than the overall 
SES attrition rate for all other cabinet-level departments, but in 
2008, the rate was slightly lower than the rate for other cabinet-level 
departments.[Footnote 26] 

Figure 2: Comparison of Attrition Rates among Executives at TSA, DHS, 
and Other Cabinet-level Agencies (Fiscal Years 2004 through 2008): 

[Refer to PDF for image: line graph] 

Fiscal year: 2004; 
Rate of attrition, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 23; 
Rate of attrition, TSA: 16; 
Rate of attrition, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 10. 

Fiscal year: 2005; 
Rate of attrition, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 23; 
Rate of attrition, TSA: 20; 
Rate of attrition, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 11. 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
Rate of attrition, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 24; 
Rate of attrition, TSA: 19; 
Rate of attrition, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 11. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
Rate of attrition, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 17; 
Rate of attrition, TSA: 13; 
Rate of attrition, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 11. 

Fiscal year: 2008; 
Rate of attrition, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 14; 
Rate of attrition, TSA: 10; 
Rate of attrition, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 11. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM’s Central Personnel Data File. 

[End of figure] 

When comparing attrition among types of separations, we found that TSA 
had higher rates of executive resignations than DHS in 2005 and 2006; 
in particular, the rate of TSES resignations in 2005 (13 percent) was 
almost twice that of DHS SES (7 percent). TSA also had consistently 
higher rates of executive resignations than other cabinet-level 
departments for fiscal years 2004 through 2008 (see figure 3). TSA 
human capital officials reiterated that many of these resignations were 
likely influenced by frequent turnover among TSA administrators, and 
that it is natural to expect that some executive staff would choose to 
leave the agency after a change in top agency leadership. They also 
explained that TSA's high number of resignations could, in part, 
reflect TSES staff who opted to resign in lieu of being subject to 
disciplinary action or having a termination on their permanent record. 

Figure 3: Comparison of Rates of Resignation among Executives at TSA, 
DHS, and Other Cabinet-level Agencies (Fiscal Years 2004 through 2008): 

[Refer to PDF for image: line graph] 

Fiscal year: 2004; 
Rate of resignation, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 7; 
Rate of resignation, TSA: 6; 
Rate of resignation, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 2. 

Fiscal year: 2005; 
Rate of resignation, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 7; 
Rate of resignation, TSA: 13; 
Rate of resignation, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 3 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
Rate of resignation, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 9; 
Rate of resignation, TSA: 13; 
Rate of resignation, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 2. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
Rate of resignation, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 4; 
Rate of resignation, TSA: 4; 
Rate of resignation, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 2. 

Fiscal year: 2008; 
Rate of resignation, All of DHS (excluding TSA): 5; 
Rate of resignation, TSA: 3; 
Rate of resignation, All cabinet-level departments (excluding DHS): 2. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM’s Central Personnel Data File. 

[End of figure] 

Regarding other separation types, TSA's TSES had lower rates of 
retirements for fiscal years 2004 through 2008 than SES in DHS and all 
cabinet-level departments. However, rates of transfers among TSES were 
about the same as those among SES in DHS and cabinet-level departments. 
[Footnote 27] For the same time period, TSA's attrition rate for TSES 
terminations and expiration of term appointments was 3 percent or less, 
whereas the rate for DHS and all other cabinet-level departments was 1 
percent or less. 

Former TSES Staff We Interviewed Primarily Cited Adverse Reasons for 
Leaving TSA; Current TSA Employees and Other Stakeholders Expressed 
Varying Views on the Impact of These Separations: 

In interviews with 46 of 95 TSES who separated from TSA from fiscal 
years 2005 through 2008, most reported adverse reasons for leaving the 
agency--that is, a reason related to dissatisfaction with some aspect 
of their TSA experience, as opposed to a nonadverse reason, such as to 
spend more time with family or pursue another professional opportunity. 
Perceptions regarding the impact of TSES separations on TSA operations 
varied among TSA staff who directly reported to separated TSES staff 
members, TSES supervisors, and stakeholder groups representing 
industries that collaborate with TSA on security initiatives. Some of 
these reported that TSES attrition had little or no impact on the 
agency's ability to implement transportation security initiatives, 
while others identified negative effects on agency operations, such as 
a lack of program direction and uncertainty and stress among employees. 

TSES Staff We Interviewed Cited Nonadverse and Adverse Reasons for 
Leaving TSA: 

In addition to obtaining information on the manner by which TSES staff 
separated from the agency, such as through resignation or retirement, 
we also sought more detailed information on the factors that led staff 
members to separate. For example, for TSES staff members who left the 
agency through retirement, we sought information on any factors, beyond 
basic eligibility, that compelled them to leave the agency. According 
to TSA officials, one of the primary reasons for attrition among TSES 
has been the large number of TSES term appointees employed by the 
agency, who, by the very nature of their appointment, are expected to 
leave TSA, generally within 3 years. However, as shown earlier in table 
4, only 4 TSES appointees separated from TSA due to the expiration of 
their appointments for fiscal years 2004 through 2008, and TSA reported 
hiring a total of 76 limited term appointees over this period. TSA 
human capital officials later explained that when the time period for a 
limited term appointments concludes, the reason for the staff member's 
separation is recorded on his or her personnel file as a type of 
"termination." For this reason, TSES on limited term appointments often 
leave the agency before their terms expire in order to avoid having 
"termination" on their personnel record, among other reasons. To better 
understand the reasons for TSES separations, and the extent to which 
they may have been influenced by TSES limited term appointments, we 
requested TSA exit interview data that would provide more in-depth 
explanations as to why the former TSES staff members left the agency. 
[Footnote 28] Since TSA had documented exit interviews for only 5 of 95 
TSES staff members who separated from TSA from fiscal years 2005 
through 2008,[Footnote 29] we interviewed 46 of these former TSES staff 
to better understand the reasons why they left the agency.[Footnote 30] 
As stated previously, because we selected these individuals based on a 
nonprobability sampling method, we cannot generalize about the reasons 
for all TSES separations from fiscal years 2005 through 2008. However, 
these interviews provided us with perspectives on why nearly half of 
these TSES staff left TSA. 

Of the 46 former TSES staff members we interviewed, 33 cited more than 
one reason for leaving TSA. Specifically, these individuals gave 
between one and six reasons for separating, with an average of two 
reasons identified per interviewee. Ten of 46 interviewees identified 
only nonadverse reasons for leaving TSA, 24 identified only adverse 
reasons, and 12 cited both adverse and nonadverse reasons. Nonadverse 
reasons were those not related to dissatisfaction with TSA, such as 
leaving the agency for another professional opportunity or to spend 
more time with family. Adverse reasons were those related to 
dissatisfaction with some aspect of the TSES staff member's experience 
at TSA. As shown in table 5, we identified three categories of 
nonadverse reasons and nine categories of adverse reasons for why TSES 
staff left TSA. By discussing only the perspectives of former TSES, we 
may not be presenting complete information regarding the circumstances 
surrounding their separation from TSA. However, as we agreed not to 
identify to TSA the identities of respondents we spoke with, we did not 
obtain TSA's viewpoint on these separations because doing so would risk 
revealing the interviewee's identity.[Footnote 31] 

Table 5: Reasons for Leaving TSA Cited by Former TSES Staff Members[A] 
(n=46): 

Nonadverse reasons for separation: 

1. Pursuit of another professional opportunity; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 14. 

2. Personal and/or family reasons; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 7. 

3. Expiration of a limited term appointment or reannuitant waiver; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 4. 

Adverse reasons for separation: 

4. Dissatisfaction with leadership style of top management; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 14. 

5. Perception that some TSES colleagues lacked executive-level skills 
or were selected for positions based on personal relationships; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 13. 

6. Dissatisfaction with position authority or responsibilities; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 13. 

7. Disagreement with top leadership's priorities or decisions; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 12. 

8. Frustration with agency reorganizations and turnover of 
administrators; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 11. 

9. Perception that TSA treated TSES executives and other employees in 
an unprofessional or disrespectful manner; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 9. 

10. Termination or perception of being forced to leave TSA; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 9. 

11. Other adverse reason[B]; 
Number of TSES citing reason: 9. 

12. Pay (insufficient pay or inequitable pay); 
Number of TSES citing reason: 5. 

Source: GAO analysis of interview responses of 46 former TSES staff who 
left TSA from fiscal years 2005 through 2008. 

[A] Many TSES gave more than one reason for leaving the agency. 
Therefore the total number of reasons identified for leaving is greater 
than 46 (the number of TSES we interviewed). 

[B] These included reasons not captured by the other adverse reasons we 
identified, but that were still related to dissatisfaction with some 
aspect of the TSES staff member's experience at TSA. 

[End of table] 

Nonadverse Reasons Cited for Leaving TSA: 

Of the TSES staff we interviewed who reported leaving TSA for 
nonadverse reasons, 14 of the 46 reported leaving for another 
professional opportunity, such as a position in a security consulting 
firm. Seven of 46 reported separating from TSA because of personal 
reasons, such as the desire to spend quality time with family, and 4 of 
the 46 TSES told us they separated from the agency because they were 
employed on re-employed annuitant waivers, which expired after 5 years. 
[Footnote 32] 

Adverse Reasons Cited for Leaving TSA: 

Of the TSES staff we interviewed who reported leaving TSA for adverse 
reasons, 14 of the 46 cited dissatisfaction with the leadership style 
of top management as a reason they left the agency. These interviewees 
defined top leadership as the TSA Administrator or those reporting 
directly to him, such as Assistant Administrators. In addition to 
issues with management style, 10 of the 14 responses focused 
specifically on top leadership's communication style and cited 
instances in which top management had not communicated with other TSES 
staff and, in some cases, with lower-level staff. For example, one 
former FSD reported that new policies and procedures were implemented 
by headquarters with little or no notice to the field. He explained 
that in some cases, he learned that headquarters had issued new 
policies or procedures when the media called to ask questions about 
them. Another TSES interviewee reported that communication occurred 
between the administrator and a core group, but all other staff 
received only "bits and pieces of information." Other examples provided 
in this category were more general. For example, 3 interviewees 
reported they were compelled to leave the agency due to a specific TSA 
Administrator's more hierarchical management style. 

Thirteen of the 46 former TSES staff we interviewed stated that some of 
their colleagues lacked executive-level skills or were selected for 
positions based on personal relationships with administrators or other 
TSES staff. Specifically, 12 of the 13 interviewees in this category 
stated their colleagues lacked the necessary qualifications for the 
position. For example, one interviewee mentioned that an individual 
with a rail background was put in charge of a TSA division that focused 
on aviation policy. In addition, 6 of the 13 TSES staff in this 
category stated that many in the TSES were hired based on personal 
relationships, as opposed to executive qualifications. As discussed 
previously, unlike many other federal agencies, TSA is not required to 
adhere to merit staffing principles when hiring for limited term TSES 
positions. However, TSA has agreed to adhere to merit staffing 
principles when hiring for career TSES positions in accordance with the 
OPM-DHS interchange agreement. The former TSES staff we interviewed did 
not always provide us with the names of their colleagues whom they 
believed were not hired in accordance with merit staffing principles. 
Additionally, documentation related to the hiring of TSES staff who 
joined the agency prior to March 2006 was not generally available. 
Therefore, we were not able to conduct an independent assessment of 
whether the TSES in question should have been hired, and subsequently 
were hired, in accordance with merit staffing principles. However, 
later in this report, we discuss the extent to which TSA documented its 
adherence to merit staffing principles when hiring for TSES career 
positions in 2006 and 2008, such that an independent third party could 
make this type of assessment in the future. 

Thirteen of the 46 TSES staff we interviewed cited dissatisfaction with 
the authority and responsibilities of their position as a reason for 
leaving. Specifically, 7 TSES staff members reported being dissatisfied 
with the limited authority associated with their position. For example, 
during a period when contractors, as opposed to FSDs, were responsible 
for hiring TSA airport employees, one former FSD explained that he 
arrived at the interview site to observe the interview and testing 
process for the transportation security officer candidates, but was not 
allowed to enter the facility, even though he would be supervising many 
of the individuals who were hired.[Footnote 33] The remaining 6 TSES 
reported that they were either dissatisfied with the duties and 
responsibilities of their position, or they became dissatisfied with 
their position after (1) they were reassigned to a less desirable 
position or (2) they believed their position lost authority over the 
course of their employment. For example, regarding the latter, one 
former TSES staff member reported that after his division was subsumed 
within another, he became dissatisfied with no longer having the 
ability to report directly to the administrator or implement policies 
across the agency, and subsequently left the agency. 

Twelve of the 46 TSES staff we interviewed cited disagreement with top 
leadership's priorities or decisions as a reason for separation. Seven 
of the 12 TSES staff in this category disagreed with a specific 
management decision. For example, one former TSES staff member reported 
leaving the agency when top leadership decided to discontinue a process 
for evaluating candidates for a certain TSA position, which the former 
TSES staff member believed was critical to selecting appropriate 
individuals for the position. The other 5 staff in this category 
questioned agency priorities. For example, one TSES staff member 
believed that TSA focused on aviation security at the expense of 
security for other modes of transportation, while another commented 
that agency priorities had shifted from a security focus to one that 
was centered on customer service. 

Eleven of the 46 TSES staff we interviewed reported that they were 
frustrated with numerous agency reorganizations and frequent changes in 
TSA administrators. For example, one TSES staff member reported that 
during her tenure she experienced six physical office changes along 
with multiple changes to duties and responsibilities, making it 
difficult to lead a cohesive program in the division. We conducted an 
analysis of TSA organization charts from calendar years 2002 through 
2008, and found that TSA underwent at least 10 reorganizations over 
this period.[Footnote 34] Furthermore, the charts reflected 149 changes 
in the TSES staff in charge of TSA divisions.[Footnote 35] Also, TSA 
was headed by several different administrators from 2002 through mid- 
2005--specifically, a total of 4 within its first 5 years of existence. 
TSA human capital officials acknowledged that the many reorganizations 
and changes in agency leadership the agency has experienced since its 
formation have led to many TSES staff separations. 

With regard to some of the remaining adverse reasons, 

* Nine of the 46 TSES staff told us they separated from the agency 
because they believed that TSA executives and employees were treated in 
an unprofessional or disrespectful manner. For example, one TSES staff 
member reported that upon completion of a detail at another federal 
agency, he returned to TSA and learned that his TSES position had been 
backfilled without his knowledge. 

* Nine of the 46 TSES staff reported they were either terminated or 
pressured to leave the agency. We reviewed TSA-provided data on 
separations, and found that 3 of the 9 TSES in this category were 
actually terminated. The 6 who were not terminated reported that they 
were pressured to leave the agency. Specifically, 4 of the 6 reported 
that they were forced out of the agency after being offered positions 
that TSA leadership knew would be undesirable to them due to the 
location, duties, or supervisor associated with the position. Finally, 
2 of the 6 TSES reported they were compelled to resign after being 
wrongly accused of misconduct or poor performance. 

* Five of the 46 TSES staff we spoke with reported either insufficient 
or inequitable pay as a reason for separating from the agency. In one 
case, a TSES staff member told us that, unlike his peers, he did not 
receive any bonuses or pay increases even though he was given excellent 
performance reviews. TSA provided us with data on the total amount of 
bonuses awarded to each TSES staff person employed with the agency 
during fiscal years 2005 through 2008.[Footnote 36] Agency 
documentation reflects that these bonuses were awarded to recognize 
performance. Of the 95 TSES who separated during this 4-year period, 55 
were awarded performance bonuses, and the total amount of these awards 
ranged from $1,000 to $44,000. Of 141 TSES who were employed with TSA 
during fiscal years 2005 through 2008, 92 were awarded performance 
bonuses, and the total amount of these awards ranged from at least 
$4,800 to $85,000.[Footnote 37] Another interviewee told us that he 
left TSA due, in part, to his perception that TSES staff doing aviation 
security work were paid more than TSES staff such as himself who worked 
in other nonaviation transportation modes. 

TSA Employees and Stakeholders Held Varying Opinions on the Impact of 
TSES Attrition: 

While some attrition impacts agency operations negatively, such as the 
loss of historical knowledge or expertise, the separation of other 
staff can have a positive impact on agency operations--such as when an 
executive is not meeting performance expectations. To identify the 
potential impact of TSES separations on agency operations, we conducted 
interviews with TSA staff who were direct reports to and immediate 
supervisors of TSES staff members who left the agency. We also 
interviewed representatives of seven transportation security 
associations. While we would not expect any of these individuals to 
have a full understanding of the impact that TSES attrition had on the 
agency, we believe that presenting the perspectives of superiors and 
subordinates and external agency stakeholders enables us to offer 
additional perspective on this issue. 

We found that the direct reports, supervisors, and external 
stakeholders had varying views regarding the impact that TSES attrition 
has had on TSA. Specifically, of the 22 direct reports we interviewed, 
13 stated that TSES attrition had little or no impact on TSA's programs 
and policies, whereas 8 others cited negative effects, such as delays 
in the development and implementation of agency programs.[Footnote 38] 
Two programs direct reports identified as being negatively affected by 
TSES attrition were Secure Flight and the Transportation Worker 
Identification Credential (TWIC) programs.[Footnote 39] In addition, 12 
of the direct reports stated that TSES attrition had little or no 
impact on the functioning of their particular division, although 10 
cited negative effects such as a lack of communication regarding the 
direction of the division and its goals; difficulties in building 
relationships with ever-changing supervisors; and decreased morale. 
Regarding our interviews with the 7 supervisors of TSES staff who since 
left the agency, 6 reported that TSES attrition had little or no impact 
on TSA's programs and policies, but one stated that TSES separations 
caused a lack of vision and direction for program development. 
Additionally, 4 supervisors did not believe that TSES attrition had 
negative impacts on the functioning of a specific division, but 3 
supervisors stated that TSES attrition did have negative impacts, 
stating that separations cause uncertainty and stress among employees, 
which negatively impacts morale. 

With regard to our interviews with seven industry associations 
representing the various stakeholders affected by TSA programs and 
policies (for example, airports, mass transit systems, and maritime 
industries), four industry associations could not identify a negative 
impact attributable to turnover among TSES staff. The remaining three 
stakeholders reported delayed program implementation and a lack of 
communication from TSA associated with TSES turnover. 

TSA human capital officials noted that they were generally pleased that 
many of the supervisors, direct reports, and stakeholders we 
interviewed stated that the impact of TSES turnover on agency 
operations was minimal. In particular, they interpreted this as 
evidence that their succession planning efforts--to identify, develop, 
and select successors who are the right people with the right skills 
for leadership and other key positions--are working as intended, and 
minimizing the impact of turnover on agency operations. 

TSA Has Implemented Measures to Address TSES Attrition Consistent with 
Effective Human Capital Practices and Internal Controls, but Data on 
Exit Surveys and Hiring Decisions Could Be Improved: 

By affording separating TSES the opportunity to complete an exit 
survey, TSA has taken steps to address attrition that are consistent 
with internal control standards and effective human capital management 
practices. Nevertheless, the current survey instrument does not allow 
TSES staff leaving the agency to identify themselves as executive-level 
staff, hence preventing the agency from isolating the responses of TSES 
staff and using the data to address reasons for TSES attrition. In 
addition, the agency has implemented other measures to improve overall 
management of its TSES corps that are consistent with effective human 
capital management practices and internal control standards, such as 
issuing an official handbook that delineates human capital policies 
applying to the TSES, implementing a succession plan, and incorporating 
merit-based staffing requirements (which are intended to ensure fair 
and open competition for positions) into its process for hiring 
executive staff. However, inconsistent with internal control standards, 
TSA did not always clearly document its implementation of merit 
staffing requirements. 

TSA Has Taken Steps to Manage TSES Attrition by Affording Separating 
TSES Staff the Opportunity to Complete an Exit Survey and Decreasing 
Its Use of Limited Term Appointments, but Limited Exit Survey Data May 
Hinder Efforts: 

According to TSA officials, in January 2008, TSA began collecting data 
on the reasons for TSES separation through an exit interview process, 
asking questions specifically designed to capture the experiences of 
executive-level staff. The interview was administered by TSA human 
capital officials. According to a TSA official, after we requested 
access to this information in September 2008, TSA ceased conducting 
these exit interviews due to concerns that the format would not provide 
for anonymity of former TSES staff members' responses. According to 
standards for internal control in the federal government, as part of 
its human capital planning, management should consider how best to 
retain valuable employees to ensure the continuity of needed skills and 
abilities.[Footnote 40] Also, we have reported that collecting and 
analyzing data on the reasons for attrition through exit interviews is 
important for strategic workforce planning. [Footnote 41] Such planning 
entails developing and implementing long-term strategies for acquiring, 
developing, and retaining employees, so that an agency has a workforce 
in place capable of accomplishing its mission.[Footnote 42] In March 
2009, TSA, recognizing the importance of such a process to its 
management of TSES resources, announced it was affording separating 
TSES staff the opportunity to complete an exit survey. Specifically, 
TSA officials reported that they would use the agency's National Exit 
Survey instrument, which has been in use for non-TSES staff since 
November 2005.[Footnote 43] We reviewed the survey instrument, which 
consists of 21 questions (20 closed ended and one open ended) 
concerning the staff member's experience at TSA and the specific 
reasons for separation, and found that it generally covered all the 
reasons for separation identified by 46 separated TSES staff we 
interviewed.[Footnote 44] 

Although TSA's National Exit Survey responses are submitted anonymously 
(thereby allaying TSA's concerns with the previous TSES exit interview 
process), respondents are given the opportunity to identify what 
position they held at TSA, such as "Transportation Security Officer 
(TSO)," by selecting from a pre-set list of position titles.[Footnote 
45] However, TSA does not list "TSES" among the answer choices, which 
precludes TSES staff who fill out the survey from identifying their 
position rank. TSA officials explained that they do not allow TSES 
staff to self-identify because, given the small number of TSES staff 
who leave the agency in a given year, it may be possible to determine 
the identity of a particular TSES respondent. However, according to 
TSA's documented policy for analyzing exit survey data, survey 
responses will not be analyzed by position if the total number of 
respondents in that position is fewer than five. We discussed this 
issue with TSA human capital officials and the TSA officials stated 
that, in light of this policy, they may consider allowing TSES staff 
members to identify themselves as such when filling out the survey. 
Without the ability to isolate the responses of TSES staff from those 
of other staff, it will be difficult for TSA to use the results of the 
exit survey to identify reasons for attrition specific to TSES staff, 
thus hindering TSA's ability to use exit survey data to develop a 
strategy for retaining talented TSES staff with specialized skills and 
knowledge, and ensuring continuity among the agency's leadership. 

TSA has also sought to manage attrition among TSES by decreasing its 
use of limited term TSES appointments. TSA officials believe that the 
agency's use of limited term appointments has contributed to higher 
attrition among TSES staff. TSA's Chief Human Capital Officer stated 
that during the agency's formation and transition to DHS, TSA made more 
liberal use of limited term appointments, as it was necessary to 
quickly hire those individuals with the executive and subject area 
expertise to establish the agency. The official explained that as the 
agency has matured, and since it now has a regular executive candidate 
development program, the agency has hired fewer limited term 
appointments. TSA data on the number of limited term TSES appointed 
(hired) per fiscal year from 2004 through 2008 show that the agency's 
use of limited term appointments has generally been decreasing, both in 
number and as a proportion of all new TSES appointments. Specifically, 
the number of new limited term appointments was highest in fiscal year 
2004, representing over half of all TSES appointments for that fiscal 
year; in fiscal year 2008, TSES made six TSES limited term 
appointments, representing a sixth of all new appointments for that 
fiscal year (see table 6). 

Table 6: Number of New Limited Term TSES Appointments and Total New 
TSES Appointments for Fiscal Years 2004 through 2008A: 

Fiscal year: 2004; 
Number of new limited term appointments[B]: 32; 
Total new TSES appointments[C]: 59. 

Fiscal year: 2005; 
Number of new limited term appointments[B]: 20; 
Total new TSES appointments[C]: 49. 

Fiscal year: 2006; 
Number of new limited term appointments[B]: 8; 
Total new TSES appointments[C]: 27. 

Fiscal year: 2007; 
Number of new limited term appointments[B]: 10; 
Total new TSES appointments[C]: 51. 

Fiscal year: 2008; 
Number of new limited term appointments[B]: 6; 
Total new TSES appointments[C]: 36. 

Source: GAO analysis of TSA and CPDF data. 

[A] We did not provide the number of term employees as a percentage of 
total new appointments because GAO does not generally present 
percentages when the total population is less than 50. 

[B] TSA provided data on the number of new limited term appointments 
made for each fiscal year. 

[C] Total new TSES appointments for each fiscal year were determined 
through an analysis of CPDF data. 

[End of table] 

TSA Has Taken Steps to Better Manage Its TSES Program, but Better 
Documentation Is Needed so that TSA Can Demonstrate Its Use of Merit- 
Based Staffing Procedures as Part of Its TSES Hiring Process: 

TSA has implemented a number of steps to help attract and retain TSES 
staff. In November 2008, TSA issued a TSES handbook delineating human 
capital policies and procedures applicable to TSES staff.[Footnote 46] 
Prior to this, a comprehensive policy document did not exist. According 
to standards for internal control in the federal government, management 
should establish good human capital policies and practices for hiring, 
training, evaluating, counseling, promoting, compensating, and 
disciplining personnel in order to maintain an environment throughout 
the organization that sets a positive and supportive attitude toward 
internal control and conscientious management.[Footnote 47] Moreover, 
these policies and practices should be clearly documented and readily 
available for examination. 

TSA has had documented policies and procedures in place for such things 
as reassignments, transfers, and terminations since December 2003, and 
for the performance assessment of its TSES staff since July 2003. 
However, in November 2008, TSA issued a more comprehensive management 
directive delineating the agency's human capital policies and 
procedures for TSES that, in addition to the areas listed above, also 
covers details to other agencies, reinstatements, compensation, work 
schedules, leave, awards and recognition, disciplinary actions, and 
workforce reductions. [Footnote 48] TSA stated that its goal is to 
ensure that all current TSES staff members are aware and have copies of 
the management directive. The directive, along with TSA's stated 
commitment to increasing TSES access to this information, should help 
provide TSES staff with a more accurate and complete understanding of 
the applicable human capital management authorities, flexibilities, 
policies, and procedures. 

TSA also developed a succession plan in 2006 to improve its overall 
human capital management of TSES staff. [Footnote 49] TSA's succession 
planning efforts provide for a more systematic assessment of position 
needs and staff capabilities. Specifically, the plan targets 81 
positions (both TSES and pay-band) and identifies the leadership and 
technical competencies required for all.[Footnote 50] The program is 
designed to recruit talented TSA staff in lower-level positions as 
possible candidates for these positions and encourage them to apply for 
entrance into a Senior Leadership Development Program (SLDP) where, 
upon acceptance, program participants are to receive special access to 
training and development experiences.[Footnote 51] Moreover, program 
participants are to have their executive core qualifications approved 
by OPM upon completion of the program, making them eligible for 
noncompetitive placement into vacant TSES positions.[Footnote 52] We 
have previously reported that succession planning can enable an agency 
to remain aware of and be prepared for its current and future needs as 
an organization, including having a workforce with the knowledge, 
skills, and abilities needed for the agency to pursue its mission. 
[Footnote 53] 

To better manage its TSES program, TSA also established in 2006 a 
hiring process for TSES staff that incorporates merit staffing 
requirements; however, TSA lacked documentation that would demonstrate 
whether TSA is consistently following these requirements. Although TSA 
has more human capital flexibilities with regard to hiring than most 
federal agencies, the agency, on its own initiative, sought to 
incorporate various merit staffing requirements into its hiring 
process.[Footnote 54] Merit staffing requirements help to ensure that 
competition for executive positions is fair and transparent, and that 
individuals with the necessary technical skills and abilities are 
selected for positions--which was a concern for 13 of the 46 former 
TSES we interviewed. While TSA human capital officials asserted that 
TSA has always hired qualified TSES staff in accordance with merit 
staffing requirements, these officials also acknowledged that for most 
of TSA's existence, the agency did not have a documented process for 
doing so. In January 2006, TSA established an Executive Resources 
Council (ERC), which was chartered to advise the TSA Administrator and 
Deputy Administrator on the recruitment, assessment, and selection of 
executives, among other things. TSA's ERC charter requires that merit 
staffing be used when hiring for TSES positions by encompassing certain 
merit staffing requirements into its procedures, namely public notice 
of position availability; identification, rating, and ranking of 
eligible candidates against position qualifications; determination of a 
list of best qualified candidates with the final selection coming from 
among those best qualified; and the agency's certification of the final 
candidate's qualifications. 

According to internal control standards, internal controls and other 
significant events--which could include the hiring of TSES staff--need 
to be clearly documented, and the documentation should be properly 
managed and maintained.[Footnote 55] To determine the extent to which 
TSA documented its implementation of the merit staffing procedures, we 
reviewed case files for evidence that merit staffing procedures were 
followed for the selection of 25 career TSES appointments for calendar 
year 2006 (the year the TSES staffing process was established) and 16 
TSES staff for calendar year 2008 (the most recent full calendar year 
for which documentation was available).[Footnote 56] We could not 
review documentation prior to this period because TSA explained that 
its hiring decisions were not consistently documented prior to the 
establishment of its ERC process in March 2006. 

Based upon our review, we found that for 20 of the 25 career TSES who 
were hired competitively in calendar year 2006 and for 8 of the 16 TSES 
who were hired competitively in calendar year 2008, documentation 
identifying how TSA implemented at least one of the merit staffing 
procedures was either missing or unclear. For example, in our review of 
one 2008 case file, we found that the person selected for the position 
had not previously held a career executive-level position, but we did 
not find documentation indicating on what basis the person had been 
rated and ranked against other candidates applying for the 
position.[Footnote 57] Absent such documentation, it is uncertain 
whether the appointment comported with TSA's hiring process. Moreover, 
OPM regulations establishing merit staffing requirements, upon which 
TSA based its staffing process, provide that agencies operating under 
merit staffing requirements must retain such documentation for 2 years 
to permit reconstruction of merit staffing actions.[Footnote 58] Table 
7 identifies the specific merit staffing procedures required by TSA's 
hiring process for which documentation was either missing or unclear. 

Table 7: Number of Hiring Decisions for TSES Positions Filled in 
Calendar Years 2006 and 2008 for which TSA Documentation of Merit 
Staffing Procedures Was Missing or Unclear: 

Merit staffing activity: Public notice of position availability; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2006 (n=25): 0; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2008 (n=16): 0. 

Merit staffing activity: Identification of all minimally eligible 
candidates; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2006 (n=25): 2; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2008 (n=16): 5. 

Merit staffing activity: Identification of position qualifications; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2006 (n=25): 9; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2008 (n=16): 1. 

Merit staffing activity: Rating and ranking of all eligible candidates 
using position qualifications; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2006 (n=25): 6; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2008 (n=16): 3. 

Merit staffing activity: Determination of a best-qualified list; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2006 (n=25): 1; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2008 (n=16): 0. 

Merit staffing activity: Selection of a candidate for the position from 
among those best qualified; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2006 (n=25): 4; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2008 (n=16): 0. 

Merit staffing activity: TSA's certification of candidate's executive 
and technical qualifications; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2006 (n=25): 11; 
Number of hiring decisions for which documentation was missing or 
unclear--calendar year 2008 (n=16): 1. 

Source: GAO analysis of TSA documents. 

[End of table] 

TSA human capital officials told us that a lack of documentation within 
case files does not necessarily indicate that merit staffing procedures 
were not followed for a particular staffing decision. Specifically, TSA 
stated that because the TSES staffing process consists of multiple 
levels of review, including review by both the TSA and DHS Executive 
Resources Councils, regardless of the lack of documentation, the agency 
has reasonable assurance that merit staffing principles have been 
followed. While TSA officials may believe that the agency has these 
assurances internally, by ensuring that there is complete and 
consistent documentation of its TSES staffing decisions, TSA can better 
demonstrate to an independent third party, the Congress, and the public 
that the way in which it hires for TSES positions is fair and open, 
that candidates are evaluated on the same basis, that selection for the 
position is not based on political or other non-job related factors, 
and that executives with the appropriate skills sets are selected for 
positions. 

Conclusions: 

Given the broad visibility of its mission to secure our nation's 
transportation system, it is important that TSA maintain a skilled 
workforce led by well-qualified executives. As TSA prepares to bring on 
a new administrator, it would be beneficial to address some of the 
circumstances which led the former TSES staff members we interviewed to 
separate. TSA has taken steps to address attrition among TSES staff and 
to improve overall management of its TSES workforce. However, some 
modifications to these efforts could be beneficial. For example, TSA's 
planned effort to conduct exit surveys of TSES staff--consistent with 
human capital best practices--is intended to provide TSA with more 
comprehensive data on the reasons why TSES staff decided to leave the 
agency. However, the method by which TSA has chosen to collect these 
data--anonymous surveys in which the separating TSES do not disclose 
their level of employment--will not provide TSA reasons why TSES staff, 
in particular, left the agency, thereby rendering the data less useful 
for addressing TSES attrition. TSA has also implemented a process to 
hire TSES staff, which incorporates procedures based upon merit 
staffing requirements in order to ensure that candidates for career 
TSES appointments are evaluated and hired on the basis of their skills 
and abilities as opposed to personal relationships--which was a concern 
among some former TSES staff we interviewed. By more consistently 
documenting whether and how it has applied merit staffing procedures 
when filling career TSES positions, TSA can better demonstrate that its 
hiring of TSES is fair and merit-based, as intended. 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

To address attrition among TSES staff and improve management of TSES 
resources, we recommend that the TSA Administrator take the following 
two actions: 

* Ensure that the National Exit Survey, or any other exit survey 
instrument TSA may adopt, can be used to distinguish between responses 
provided by TSES staff and other staff, so that the agency can 
determine why TSES staff, in particular, are separating from TSA. 

* Require that TSA officials involved in the staffing process for TSES 
staff fully document how they applied each of the merit staffing 
principles required by TSA when evaluating, qualifying, and selecting 
individuals to fill career TSES positions. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

On October 7, 2009, we received written comments on the draft report, 
which are reproduced in full in appendix IV. TSA concurred with our 
recommendations and has taken action to implement them. In addition, 
TSA, as well as OPM, provided technical comments on the draft report, 
which we incorporated as appropriate. 

With regard to our recommendation that TSA allow TSES staff to identify 
themselves as such when filling out the National Exit Survey, TSA 
stated that it has revised Question 27 of the National Exit Survey-- 
"What is your pay band?"--to include "TSES" as a response option. 
Regarding our second recommendation that TSA fully document how it 
applied merit staffing principles when evaluating, qualifying, and 
selecting individuals to fill career TSES positions, TSA stated that it 
has established a checklist for proper documentation and will conduct 
an internal audit of TSES selection files on a quarterly basis. 

While TSA agrees that it should document its adherence to merit 
staffing principles, it raised a question about our analysis by stating 
that we regarded documentation of TSA's certification of the 
candidate's executive and technical qualifications as deficient if 
there was not both a signed letter from the selecting official and a 
signed Executive Resources Council recommendation, even when 
contemporaneous records existed. However, TSA's statement is not 
accurate. To clarify, we considered documentation of this merit 
staffing principle complete if there was both a signed letter from the 
selecting official as well as a description of the candidate's 
executive and technical qualifications. Therefore, even if the signed 
ERC recommendation was not present, if other contemporaneous records 
were provided to us attesting to the candidate's executive and 
technical qualifications, we would have given TSA credit for this. We 
found that for 2006, of the 11 staffing folders that we determined had 
incomplete documentation of TSA's adherence to the agency certification 
principle, 4 were only missing the signed certification by the 
selecting official, 5 were only missing the description of the 
candidate's qualifications, and 2 of the folders were missing both the 
signed letter from the selecting official as well as a description of 
the candidate's executive and technical qualifications. The one folder 
we identified from 2008 as having incomplete documentation of TSA's 
certification of the candidate was missing a description of the 
candidate's qualifications. The absence of critical documentation makes 
it difficult to support TSA's statement that it has implemented a 
rigorous process for executive resources management consistent with 
effective human capital management practices and standards for internal 
control. 

TSA also stated that it was unable to respond to the reasons we 
reported for why former TSES staff left the agency, because the 
responses were anonymous. It is the case that we did not provide TSA 
with the names of the former TSES staff with whom we spoke. However, we 
chose not to do so because we believe that if the former TSES staff we 
interviewed knew that we were going to share their names with TSA, they 
would have been less candid and forthcoming in their responses. We 
would also like to note that TSA would not have had to rely on the 
information we obtained from former TSES staff regarding their reasons 
for leaving if TSA had consistently been conducting exit interviews or 
exit surveys between 2005 and 2008, which is the period of time during 
which those we interviewed left the agency. 

We will send copies of this report to the appropriate congressional 
committees and the Acting Assistant Secretary for TSA. The report will 
also be available at no charge on our Web site at [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov]. 

If you have any further questions about this report, please contact me 
at (202) 512-4379 or lords@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this report. Key contributors to this report are listed in 
appendix IV. 

Signed by: 

Stephen M. Lord: 
Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology: 

Most executive branch agencies--including most Department of Homeland 
Security (DHS) agencies--have a Senior Executive Service (SES), which 
is comprised of individuals selected for their executive leadership 
experience and subject area expertise who serve in key agency positions 
just below presidential appointees.[Footnote 59] However, due to its 
exemption from many of the requirements imposed and enforced by the 
Office of Personnel Management (OPM)--the agency responsible for 
establishing human capital policies and regulations for the federal 
government--the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) 
executives are part of the Transportation Security Executive Service 
(TSES), which is distinct from the SES of other agencies. The 
explanatory statement accompanying the DHS Appropriations Act, 2008, 
directed GAO to "report on the history of senior executive service- 
level career turnover since the formation of TSA."[Footnote 60] 
Accordingly, we addressed the following questions regarding TSA's TSES 
staff: 

1. What has been the attrition rate among TSES staff for fiscal years 
2004 through 2008, and how does it compare to attrition among SES staff 
in other DHS components and cabinet-level departments? 

2. What reasons did former TSES staff provide for leaving TSA, and how 
do current TSA officials and stakeholders view the impact of TSES 
attrition on TSA's operations? 

3. To what extent are current TSA efforts to manage TSES attrition 
consistent with effective human capital practices and standards for 
internal control in the federal government? 

More details about the scope and methodology of our work to address 
each of these principal questions are presented below. 

Objective 1 - Attrition Rates for TSES Staff and SES Staff in DHS and 
Other Cabinet-level Departments: 

To calculate attrition for TSES staff and SES staff in DHS overall 
(excluding TSA) as well as other cabinet-level departments, we analyzed 
fiscal year 2004 through 2008 data from OPM's Central Personnel Data 
File (CPDF), a repository of selected human capital data for most 
Executive Branch employees, including separations data. We selected 
this time period because 2004 was the first full fiscal year during 
which TSA was a part of DHS after transferring from the Department of 
Transportation in March 2003, and thus a more meaningful starting point 
for comparing TSES attrition to SES attrition at other federal 
agencies. Also, at the time of our review, 2008 was the most recently 
completed fiscal year for which attrition data were available in CPDF. 
The individuals who we classified as senior executive staff who 
attrited, or separated, from their agencies were those with CPDF codes 
that: 

* identified them as senior executive staff, specifically TSES, SES, or 
SES equivalent staff and[Footnote 61] 

* indicated that they had separated from their agency of employment 
through resignation, transfer to another cabinet-level department, 
retirement, termination, expiration of term appointment, or "other" 
separation type. 

We did not include TSES or SES staff who made intradepartmental 
transfers (such as transferring from TSA to U.S. Customs and Border 
Protection (CBP), which is another DHS agency) when calculating 
attrition because these data were not readily available in CPDF. 

We calculated the executive attrition rates (both SES and TSES) for 
each fiscal year by dividing the total number of executive separations 
for a given fiscal year by the average of (1) the number of senior 
executive staff in the CPDF as of the last pay period of the fiscal 
year prior to the fiscal year for which the attrition rate was 
calculated and (2) the number of senior executive staff in CPDF as of 
the last pay period of the fiscal year in which the attrition occurred. 
To place the TSA's senior executive attrition rate in context, we 
compared it to the overall DHS SES attrition rate (excluding TSA) and 
the overall SES attrition rate for all other cabinet-level departments 
(excluding DHS). We did not calculate senior executive attrition rates 
for individual component agencies within DHS (such as for U.S. Secret 
Service) because the total number of senior executive staff for most of 
these components for a given fiscal year was fewer than 50. We 
generally do not to calculate rates or percentages when the total 
population for any unit is less than 50.[Footnote 62] Given that we 
could not provide rates for all DHS components, we decided not to 
compare TSES attrition to SES attrition for individual DHS components; 
however we do provide data on the number and type of executive 
separations for each DHS component in appendix II. 

For additional context, we compared the attrition rate for TSES staff 
who worked in TSA headquarters to those who worked in field locations 
for fiscal years 2004 through 2008. The CPDF does not identify whether 
a TSES staff person is considered headquarters or field staff, but does 
include codes that identify the physical location of each TSES 
position, including the location of TSA's headquarters building. As 
such, we considered headquarters TSES staff to be all TSES staff 
assigned location codes for TSA's headquarters building. In addition, 
using CPDF location codes, we identified all TSES staff working in the 
Washington D.C. area (Washington, D.C., and nearby counties in Virginia 
and Maryland) who were not assigned location codes for TSA 
headquarters, and asked TSA to identify which of these individuals were 
considered headquarters staff. All TSES staff not identified as 
headquarters staff were considered field staff.[Footnote 63] 

We believe that the CPDF data are sufficiently reliable for the 
purposes of this study. Regarding the CPDF, we have previously reported 
that governmentwide data from the CPDF were 97 percent or more 
accurate.[Footnote 64] 

Objective 2 - Reasons for TSES Separations from TSA and Stakeholder 
Views on the Impact of TSES Attrition on TSA Operations: 

To identify the reasons for TSES staff attrition, we selected a 
nonprobability sample of 46 former TSES staff members to interview from 
a TSA-provided list of 95 TSES staff members who separated from the 
agency during fiscal years 2005 through 2008.[Footnote 65] TSA provided 
us with the last-known contact information for each of these 
individuals. We searched electronic databases, such as LexisNexis, or 
used Internet search engines to obtain current contact information for 
these individuals if the information TSA provided was outdated. We 
determined that the TSA-provided list of 95 former TSES staff was 
sufficiently reliable for the purposes of this study. To make this 
determination, we compared TSA data on TSES staff separations with the 
number of TSES separations identified in CPDF and found that both 
sources reported sufficiently similar numbers of TSES staff separations 
per fiscal year. 

We attempted to select former TSES staff based on a probability sample 
in order to generalize about the reasons for TSES separation. Of the 46 
interviewees, 31 were selected based upon a randomized list of the 95 
separated TSES created to select a probability sample. We were unable 
to obtain an acceptable response rate for our sample, thus we 
determined we would continue interviewing until we had obtained 
responses from about half of the 95 separated TSES staff. We selected 
the remaining 15 interviewees in our sample of 46 in such a way that 
the proportion of interviewees with the following three 
characteristics--fiscal year of separation (2005 through 2008), manner 
of separation (resignations, retirements, etc.), and job location 
(headquarters or field)--would be about the same as the proportion of 
the 95 TSES staff members who separated during fiscal year 2005 through 
2008 who had those characteristics. For example, if one-third of the 95 
former TSES staff TSA identified left the agency in fiscal year 2005, 
then our goal was to ensure that approximately one-third of the 46 
former TSES we interviewed left in 2005. We were not always successful 
in obtaining interviews with staff possessing some of the 
characteristics required to make our sample population resemble the 
larger population; however, for most characteristics, our sample of 46 
generally had the same proportions as the larger population of TSES 
(see table 8). To obtain our sample of 46 TSES, we contacted a total of 
70 of the 95 separated TSES, and of these 70, 24 did not respond to our 
request for an interview. Specifically, 16 of these nonresponses were 
from our attempt to select a probability sample. After we began 
selecting TSES for interviews based on the three characteristics-- 
fiscal year of separation (2005 through 2008), manner of separation 
(resignations, retirements, etc.), and job location (headquarters or 
field)--we encountered an additional 8 nonresponses. 

Table 8: TSES Staff Who Separated from Fiscal Years 2005 through 2008 
Possessing Selection Criteria Characteristics: 

Selection criteria characteristics: Resignations; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 52% (49); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 46% (21). 

Selection criteria characteristics: Retirements; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 18% (17); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 17% (8). 

Selection criteria characteristics: Terminations; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 6% (6); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 9% (4). 

Selection criteria characteristics: Termination through expiration of a 
limited term appointment; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 3% (3); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 2% (1). 

Selection criteria characteristics: Transfers; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 21% (20); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 26% (12). 

Selection criteria characteristics: Headquarters staff; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 66% (63); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 72% (33). 

Selection criteria characteristics: Field staff; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 34% (32); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 28% (13). 

Selection criteria characteristics: FY 2005 separations; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 34% (32); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 30% (14). 

Selection criteria characteristics: FY 2006 separations; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 29% (28); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 33% (15). 

Selection criteria characteristics: FY 2007 separations; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 21% (20); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 24% (11). 

Selection criteria characteristics: FY 2008 separations; 
Percentage of TSES population: (n=95): 16% (15); 
Percentage of sample TSES interviewed: (n=46): 13% (6). 

Source: GAO analysis of TSA data. 

[End of table] 

Since we determined which former TSES staff to interview based on a 
nonprobability sample, we cannot generalize the interview results to 
all TSES staff who separated from TSA from fiscal years 2005 through 
2008. However, these results provided us with an indication of the 
range of reasons why nearly half of the TSES staff who separated from 
TSA during this time period left the agency. 

To ensure consistency in conducting our interviews with separated TSES 
staff members, we developed a structured interview guide of 24 
questions that focused on senior-level executives' reasons for 
separation and their opinions on how TSA could better manage attrition. 
We conducted 3 of the 46 interviews in person at GAO headquarters and 
the remainder via telephone. Our question on the reasons for separation 
was open-ended; therefore, to analyze the responses to this question, 
we performed a systematic content analysis. To do so, our team of 
analysts reviewed all responses to this question, proposed various 
descriptive categories in which TSES reasons for leaving TSA could be 
grouped based upon themes that emerged from the interview responses, 
and ultimately reached consensus on the 12 categories listed in table 9 
below. 

Table 9: Fiscal Years 2005 through 2008 Separated TSES Staff Members' 
Cited Reasons for Leaving TSA: 

Reasons for separation: 

1. Pursuit of another professional opportunity. 

2. Personal and/or family reasons. 

3. Expiration of a limited term appointment or reannuitant waiver. 

4. Dissatisfaction with leadership style of top management. 

5. Perception that some TSES colleagues lacked executive-level skills 
or were selected for positions based on personal relationships. 

6. Dissatisfaction with position authority or responsibilities. 

7. Disagreement with top leadership's priorities or decisions. 

8. Frustration with agency reorganizations and turnover of 
administrators. 

9. Perception that TSA treated TSES executives and other employees in 
an unprofessional or disrespectful manner. 

10. Termination or perception of being forced to leave TSA. 

11. Other adverse reason. 

12. Pay (insufficient pay and/or inequitable pays). 

Source: GAO analysis of interview responses of 46 former TSES staff who 
left TSA from fiscal years 2005 through 2008. 

[End of table] 

To determine which categories applied to a particular response provided 
by the former TSES staff members we interviewed, two analysts 
independently reviewed interview responses and assigned categories to 
the data; there was no limit to the number of categories the analysts 
could assign to each response. If the two analysts assigned the same 
categories, we considered the reasons for separation agreed upon. If 
they determined different categories applied, a third analyst reviewed 
the interview data and independently assigned categories. If the third 
analyst assigned the same category as one of the other reviewers, we 
considered the reason for separation the agreed upon category. If all 
three analysts assigned different categories, we coded the reason for 
separation as "unclassified." Of the 46 responses we received to our 
question regarding reasons why the former TSES we interviewed separated 
from TSA, the initial two analysts agreed upon the categories for 37 
TSES staff members' responses. For all 9 responses in which there was 
disagreement, a third analyst who reviewed the data agreed with the 
category assigned by one of the other two other analysts. 

One of the general categories we established for why TSES separated 
from TSA was dissatisfaction with numerous agency reorganizations. To 
identify the number of reorganizations TSA experienced since its 
creation, and the movement of TSES staff associated with these 
reorganizations, we analyzed 10 organization charts provided to us by 
TSA covering calendar years 2002 through 2008.[Footnote 66] These 
charts identified only high-level TSA organizational divisions and the 
TSES staff member (usually an Assistant Administrator) who headed each 
division.[Footnote 67] To identify movement of TSES staff, we compared 
the charts in chronological order and counted the number of changes in 
the TSES staff person heading the division from one chart to the next. 
In conducting our analysis, we did not determine whether changes in 
TSES staff from one chart to the next were directly attributable to 
TSA's reorganizations because we did not have the resources to 
investigate the specific circumstances surrounding each of the 149 
changes. 

Another of the general categories we established for why TSES staff 
separated from TSA was dissatisfaction due to their perception of 
receiving insufficient or inequitable pay. TSA provided us data on the 
total amount of bonuses received by TSES staff employed with TSA during 
fiscal years 2005 through 2008. We analyzed these data to identify the 
number of TSES staff who received bonuses and the range of these 
cumulative payments for staff who separated and for those who did not 
separate during this period. For TSES staff who received, in addition 
to bonuses, relocation, retention, and recruitment payments, TSA 
provided us with a single sum for all these payments. For these TSES 
staff, we could not identify the amount of the bonus from other 
payments made for recruitment, retention, or relocation purposes. Thus, 
we excluded from our analysis any individual receiving payments for 
recruitment, retention, or relocation, in addition to bonuses. 
Specifically, we excluded data for 4 TSES staff who separated during 
fiscal years 2005 through 2008, and 34 TSES staff who were employed 
throughout the 4-year period. Although we assessed TSA data on the 
number of TSES staff separations for fiscal years 2005 through 2008 and 
found them reliable, we were not able to assess the reliability of the 
specific amounts of supplemental pay TSA reported giving to TSES over 
this time period because some of these data were not recorded within 
the CPDF for comparison. However, we confirmed with TSA that the data 
provided were applicable to all TSES employed over the fiscal year 2005 
through 2008 time period. 

To address the impact of TSES attrition, we interviewed supervisors of 
separated TSES, employees who were direct reports to--that is, 
employees who were directly supervised by--separated TSES staff, and 
industry associations representing some of the various transportation 
sectors (aviation, surface, and maritime) that collaborate with TSA on 
transportation security initiatives. To conduct interviews with 
supervisors, we asked TSA to identify TSES supervisors who were still 
with TSA and who supervised any TSES who separated during fiscal years 
2005 through 2008. TSA identified nine TSES staff still at the agency 
who had supervised other TSES staff; we requested interviews with eight 
of these supervisors and conducted seven interviews.[Footnote 68] We 
asked the supervisors to identify the impact, if any, of the TSES 
separation(s) on 1) development or implementation of TSA programs or 
initiatives and 2) external stakeholder relations. Two analysts then 
performed a systematic content analysis to determine if the responses 
to our interview questions portrayed a positive impact, negative 
impact, or little to no impact. The analysts agreed in their 
determinations for all seven interviews. 

To identify direct reports for interviews, we asked the former TSES we 
interviewed to provide us with names of employees who reported directly 
to them when they were in TSES positions and who they believed were 
still TSA employees; among the 25 former TSES staff who responded to 
our inquiry, we were given names of 52 TSA employees who had reported 
directly to these TSES staff during their tenure at TSA.[Footnote 69] 
Though this selection method relied upon the recommendations of 
separated TSES staff, we attempted to adjust for any bias the TSES 
staff may have had when recommending these individuals by ensuring that 
the direct reports we interviewed were evenly distributed across the 
following three categories: 1) reported to TSES staff who left TSA for 
only nonadverse reasons; 2) reported to TSES staff who left TSA for a 
combination of nonadverse and adverse reasons; and 3) reported to TSES 
staff who left TSA for adverse reasons only.[Footnote 70] We then 
selected 26 direct reports for interviews from among the three groups. 
[Footnote 71] We were able to conduct a total of 22 interviews: 5 from 
the nonadverse category; 4 from the nonadverse/adverse category; and 13 
from the adverse only category.[Footnote 72] We conducted 9 of the 22 
interviews in person at TSA headquarters with only ourselves-- and no 
other TSA employee--present in the room; we conducted the remainder of 
direct report interviews via telephone, with a TSA staff person online 
throughout the call. This staff person was the TSA liaison, whose 
responsibility is to ensure that GAO receives access to requested 
documentation and interviews for a given engagement. Though the TSA 
liaison had no supervisory authority over the direct report staff we 
interviewed, the presence of this individual during the phone call 
could have inhibited the responses of the direct report interviewees we 
spoke with via telephone. We asked the direct reports to describe the 
impact, if any, of a TSES supervisor's separation on their individual 
responsibilities and the efforts underway in their particular division. 
We then performed a systematic content analysis of their responses in 
the same manner as our content analysis of separated TSES interviews. 
The two analysts reviewing the direct report interviews agreed in their 
determinations for all 22 interviews. 

Finally, to obtain perspectives from industry stakeholders, we 
interviewed seven TSA transportation industry groups. We identified 
these industry groups based on our experience in the field of 
transportation security and by canvassing GAO analysts working in the 
area of transportation security for other contacts. We requested 
interviews with 13 industry stakeholder groups and either received 
written responses or obtained interviews with 7--specifically 3 
aviation associations, 1 surface transportation association; and 3 
maritime transport associations.[Footnote 73] We asked the stakeholders 
to identify whether they were aware of turnover among TSES staff, how 
they knew turnover had occurred, and how it impacted a specific policy 
or program they were working with TSA to implement. Two analysts then 
performed a systematic content analysis on the responses, and there was 
no disagreement between their determinations. 

Although the direct report, supervisor, and industry stakeholder 
interviews provided important perspectives on impact of executive 
attrition, the results could not be generalized, and therefore, do not 
represent the views of the entire population of each group. 

Objective 3-The Extent to which TSA Efforts to Manage TSES Attrition 
and Improve Overall Management of Its TSES Workforce Are Consistent 
with Effective Human Capital Practices and Standards for Internal 
Control: 

To gather information on TSA efforts to address attrition, we 
interviewed the Assistant Administrator and the Deputy Assistant 
Administrator of TSA's Human Capital Office to learn about the various 
initiatives they have underway to address attrition and to improve 
management of their executive resources. These officials identified 
several initiatives, which we assessed, including a reinstated exit 
interview process, decreased use of limited term appointments, and 
recent release of a comprehensive handbook delineating TSES human 
capital policies, succession planning, and the establishment of a merit-
based staffing process. 

To assess the exit survey process, we consulted prior GAO reports that 
address the use of exit interview data in workforce planning.[Footnote 
74] We reviewed exit interviews TSA conducted under its previous 
process (specifically, five interviews dating from January 2008 through 
September 2008), and examined TSA's data collection tool for conducting 
these interviews. We also reviewed the National Exit Survey instrument 
that TSA is presently using to conduct exit interviews of TSES staff, 
and conducted interviews with TSA human capital officials on the 
agency's plans for implementing this process. 

To determine whether TSA has decreased its use of TSES limited term 
appointments, we reviewed TSA-provided data on the number of limited 
term appointments the agency made for fiscal years 2004 through 2008, 
and reviewed CPDF data on the total number of TSES staff hired for 
fiscal years 2004 through 2008. We were not able to determine the 
reliability of these data because some TSA data on limited term 
appointments were not recorded within CPDF. 

To determine the extent to which TSA's handbook for TSES human capital 
policies and its succession plan were consistent with effective human 
capital practices and internal control standards, we reviewed criteria 
in prior GAO reports, as well as the standards for internal control in 
the federal government.[Footnote 75] We reviewed TSA management 
directives for TSES staff from fiscal year 2003 through fiscal year 
2008 (one of which is the November 2008 handbook),[Footnote 76] as well 
as TSA's succession plan (both the 2006 and 2008 versions).[Footnote 
77] To identify the extent to which TSA has implemented its succession 
plan, we also reviewed TSA data on the number of staff who completed 
executive-level training identified within its succession plan and 
spoke with human capital officials responsible for compiling these 
data. 

Finally, to determine the extent to which TSA has been following merit- 
based staffing requirements for hiring TSES staff, we first reviewed 
documentation delineating TSA's hiring process, specifically its 
Executive Resource Council (ERC) charter. To determine the merit 
staffing requirements TSA's ERC process should encompass, we reviewed 
applicable OPM regulations addressing merit staffing.[Footnote 78] We 
identified seven merit staffing requirements that should have been 
reflected within TSA's hiring process, and therefore, within its 
documentation of hiring decisions (see table 7). To ensure that the 
seven requirements we identified were an appropriate standard for 
assessing TSA's performance of merit staffing, we reviewed OPM's audit 
procedures for merit staffing and found that OPM requires agencies 
operating under its jurisdiction to document performance of these seven 
requirements. In addition, TSA officials also confirmed that these were 
the key merit staffing requirements they followed and agreed that these 
should be reflected within documentation for TSES hiring decisions. 

Table 10: Seven Key Merit Staffing Requirements: 

Public notice of position availability: 

Identification of all minimally eligible candidates; 

Identification of position qualifications; 

Rating and ranking of all eligible candidates using position 
qualifications; 

Determination of a best-qualified list; 

Selection of a candidate for the position from among those best 
qualified; 

TSA's certification of a candidate's executive and technical 
qualifications. 

Source: GAO review of OPM regulations establishing merit staffing 
requirements. (5 C.F.R. §§ 317.501-.502). 

[End of table] 

To determine whether TSA was documenting its performance of the seven 
merit staffing requirements, we reviewed all case files for 
competitively filled, career appointments to TSES positions for 
calendar years 2006 and 2008--a total of 41 case files.[Footnote 79] We 
reviewed case files for competitively filled, career appointments 
specifically because TSA has committed to using merit staffing for 
these hiring decisions; thus, we could expect to find documentation of 
TSA's performance of merit staffing procedures within these files. We 
did not review case files from 2007, because we were interested in 
comparing how TSA followed merit staffing requirements when it 
initially established its ERC process in 2006, with how it followed 
them more recently in 2008--the most recent full calendar year when we 
undertook our review. After we provided the draft report to DHS for 
comment on July 27, 2009, TSA officials informed us that the they had 
additional documentation to demonstrate that the agency had adhered to 
the merit staffing principle of agency certification of the candidate's 
executive and technical qualifications for more TSES career positions 
than the number identified in our draft report. TSA provided this 
additional documentation to us on September 4, 2009. Although this 
documentation had not been kept in the files we reviewed, we assessed 
the additional documentation and revised our report accordingly. 

We conducted this performance audit from April 2008 through October 
2009 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit 
to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable 
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 
We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for 
our findings and conclusions based on our objectives. 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: Transportation Security Executive Service Staff Attrition 
Data: 

The following tables provide data for fiscal years 2004 through 2008 on 
the number of senior executive staff who attrited--or separated--from 
the Transportation Security Administration (TSA); other selected 
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies; and all cabinet-level 
departments, excluding DHS. In this report, we define attrition as 
separation from an agency by means of resignation, termination, 
retirement, expiration of appointment, or transfer to another cabinet- 
level department. Senior executive staff members in TSA are those 
individuals who are part of the Transportation Security Executive 
Service (TSES), and senior executives for other DHS agencies and 
cabinet-level departments are those individuals who are part of the 
Senior Executive Service (SES) or who hold SES-equivalent positions 
(for those agencies within cabinet-level departments that, like TSA, do 
not have SES). The DHS agencies for which we provide SES attrition data 
are those with operational missions, namely the Federal Emergency 
Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 
(USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. 
Secret Service (USSS). We also provided SES attrition data for "DHS 
Headquarters," which includes all DHS executive staff in positions 
serving departmentwide functions, such as those involving financial or 
human capital management.[Footnote 80] We do not report rates and 
percentages for populations under 50. Although the executive 
populations of TSA and some DHS components for fiscal years 2004 
through 2008 numbered more than 50 individuals (namely CBP, DHS 
Headquarters, and Rest of DHS), most DHS components had less than 50 
executives during this period. So that the presentation of our data 
would be uniform, we chose to present the attrition data in tables 11, 
13, 15, 17, and 19 in total figures for all DHS components. 

Table 11: Fiscal Year 2004 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives[A]: 154; 
Total attrited: 25; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 4; 
Resigned: 9; 
Retired: 3; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 1; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 8. 

Agency: CBP; 
Average number of executives[A]: 64; 
Total attrited: 16; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 1; 
Retired: 15; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USSS; 
Average number of executives[A]: 38; 
Total attrited: 10; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 10; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: FEMA; 
Average number of executives[A]: 38; 
Total attrited: 8; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 4; 
Retired: 2; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2. 

Agency: ICE; 
Average number of executives[A]: 36; 
Total attrited: 6; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 3; 
Retired: 3; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USCG; 
Average number of executives[A]: 10; 
Total attrited: 2; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 1; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 1. 

Agency: USCIS; 
Average number of executives[A]: 15; 
Total attrited: 0; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 0; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: DHS headquarters; 
Average number of executives[A]: 26; 
Total attrited: 7; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 4; 
Retired: 0; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 3. 

Agency: Rest of DHS[B]; 
Average number of executives[A]: 50; 
Total attrited: 13; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 7; 
Retired: 2; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] For all tables in which we present data on the average number of 
executives, we calculated these figures by averaging (1) the number of 
senior executive staff in the CPDF as of the last pay period of the 
fiscal year prior to the fiscal year for which the attrition rate was 
calculated and (2) the number of senior executive staff in CPDF as of 
the last pay period of the fiscal year in which the attrition occurred. 

[B] Includes Office of the Inspector General; Office of the Under 
Secretary (OUS) Border and Transportation Security; Federal Law 
Enforcement Training Center; OUS Information Analysis and 
Infrastructure Protection; OUS Management; and OUS for Science and 
Technology. 

[End of table] 

Table 12: Fiscal Year 2004 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-level Departments: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives: 154; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 16%; 
Other: <1%; 
Terminated: 3%; 
Resigned: 6%; 
Retired: 2%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 1%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 5%. 

Agency: DHS (excluding TSA)[B]; 
Average number of executives: 268; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 23%; 
Other: 0%; 
Terminated: 0%; 
Resigned: 7%; 
Retired: 12%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4%. 

Agency: Cabinet-level agencies (excluding DHS); 
Average number of executives: 6269; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 10%; 
Other: <1%; 
Terminated: <1%; 
Resigned: 2%; 
Retired: 7%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: <1%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2%. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] Due to rounding, the sum of the attrition rates by separation type 
may not add to the rate of attrition. 

[B] The sum of the average number of SES in the individual DHS 
components (excluding TSA) in table 11 will not equal the average 
number of DHS (excluding TSA) in table 12 because these are average 
numbers, and not total numbers, of SES employed over the year. 

[End of table] 

Table 13: Fiscal Year 2005 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives: 160; 
Total attrited: 32; 
Other: 1; 
Terminated: 3; 
Resigned: 20; 
Retired: 4; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4. 

Agency: CBP; 
Average number of executives: 58; 
Total attrited: 8; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 6; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 1; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 1. 

Agency: USSS; 
Average number of executives: 39; 
Total attrited: 10; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 10; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: FEMA; 
Average number of executives: 33; 
Total attrited: 8; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 2; 
Retired: 3; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 3. 

Agency: ICE; 
Average number of executives: 31; 
Total attrited: 6; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 1; 
Retired: 3; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2. 

Agency: USCIS; 
Average number of executives: 16; 
Total attrited: 2; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 1; 
Retired: 1; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USCG; 
Average number of executives: 8; 
Total attrited: 3; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 3; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: DHS headquarters; 
Average number of executives: 35; 
Total attrited: 15; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 10; 
Retired: 1; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4. 

Agency: Rest of DHS[A]; 
Average number of executives: 60; 
Total attrited: 13; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 5; 
Retired: 4; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] Includes Office of the Inspector General; OUS Border and 
Transportation Security; Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; OUS 
Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection; OUS Management; OUS 
For Science and Technology. 

[End of table] 

Table 14: Fiscal Year 2005 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-level Departments: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives: 160; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 20%; 
Other: 1%; 
Terminated: 2%; 
Resigned: 13%; 
Retired: 3%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 3%. 

Agency: DHS (excluding TSA)[B]; 
Average number of executives: 278; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 23%; 
Other: 0%; 
Terminated: 0%; 
Resigned: 7%; 
Retired: 11%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: <1%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 5%. 

Agency: Cabinet-level agencies (excluding DHS); 
Average number of executives: 6,289; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 11%; 
Other: <1%; 
Terminated: <1%; 
Resigned: 3%; 
Retired: 7%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: <1%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2%. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] Due to rounding, the sum of the attrition rates by separation type 
may not add to the rate of attrition. 

[B] The sum of the average number of SES in the individual DHS 
components (excluding TSA) in table 13 will not equal the average 
number of DHS (excluding TSA) in table 14 because these are average 
numbers, and not total numbers, of SES employed over the year. 

[End of table] 

Table 15: Fiscal Year 2006 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives: 144; 
Total attrited: 27; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 2; 
Resigned: 18; 
Retired: 4; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 3. 

Agency: CBP; 
Average number of executives: 67; 
Total attrited: 10; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 3; 
Retired: 7; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; Voluntary/other transfer: 
0. 

Agency: USSS; 
Average number of executives: 41; 
Total attrited: 7; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 7; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: FEMA; 
Average number of executives: 35; 
Total attrited: 13; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 5; 
Retired: 6; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2. 

Agency: ICE; 
Average number of executives: 33; 
Total attrited: 4; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 2; 
Retired: 2; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USCIS; 
Average number of executives: 16; 
Total attrited: 3; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 3; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USCG; 
Average number of executives: 8; 
Total attrited: 1; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 1; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: DHS headquarters; Average number of executives: 50; 
Total attrited: 24; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 13; 
Retired: 6; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 5. 

Agency: Rest of DHS[A]; 
Average number of executives: 57; 
Total attrited: 12; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 4; 
Retired: 4; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] Includes Department of Homeland Security; Office of the Inspector 
General; OUS Border and Transportation Security; Federal Law 
Enforcement Training Center; OUS Information Analysis and 
Infrastructure Protection; and OUS for Science and Technology. 

[End of table] 

Table 16: Fiscal Year 2006 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-Level Departments: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives: 144; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 19%; 
Other: <1%; 
Terminated: 1%; 
Resigned: 13%; 
Retired: 3%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2%. 

Agency: DHS (excluding TSA)[B]; 
Average number of executives: 306; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 24%; 
Other: 0%; Terminated: 0%; 
Resigned: 9%; Retired: 12%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4%. 

Agency: Cabinet-level agencies (excluding DHS); 
Average number of executives: 6,403; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 11%; 
Other: <1%; 
Terminated: <1%; 
Resigned: 2%; 
Retired: 6%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: <1%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2%. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] Due to rounding, the sum of the attrition rates by separation type 
may not add to the rate of attrition. 

[B] The sum of the average number of SES in the individual DHS 
components (excluding TSA) in table 15 will not equal the average 
number of DHS (excluding TSA) in table 16 because these are average 
numbers, and not total numbers, of SES employed over the year. 

[End of table] 

Table 17: Fiscal Year 2007 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives: 139; 
Total attrited: 18; 
Other: 1; 
Terminated: 1; 
Resigned: 6; 
Retired: 6; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 2; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2. 

Agency: CBP; 
Average number of executives: 74; 
Total attrited: 15; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 1; 
Retired: 14; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USSS; 
Average number of executives: 45; 
Total attrited: 5; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 5; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: FEMA; 
Average number of executives: 43; 
Total attrited: 6; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 2; 
Retired: 1; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 3. 

Agency: ICE; 
Average number of executives: 42; 
Total attrited: 10; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 1; 
Retired: 8; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 1. 

Agency: USCIS; 
Average number of executives: 24; 
Total attrited: 3; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 1; 
Retired: 2; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USCG; 
Average number of executives: 9; 
Total attrited: 2; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 1; 
Retired: 0; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 1. 

Agency: DHS headquarters; 
Average number of executives: 76; 
Total attrited: 10; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 5; 
Retired: 1; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4. 

Agency: Rest of DHS[A]; 
Average number of executives: 52; 
Total attrited: 11; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 4; 
Retired: 3; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] Includes Department of Homeland Security; Office of the Inspector 
General; Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; OUS Information 
Analysis and Infrastructure Protection; and OUS for Science and 
Technology. 

[End of table] 

Table 18: Fiscal Year 2007 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-level Departments: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives: 139; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 13%; 
Other: 1%; 
Terminated: 1%; 
Resigned: 4%; 
Retired: 4%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 1%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 1%. 

Agency: DHS (excluding TSA)[B]; 
Average number of executives: 365; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 17%; 
Other: 0%; 
Terminated: 0%; 
Resigned: 4%; 
Retired: 9%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 4%. 

Agency: Cabinet-level agencies (excluding DHS); 
Average number of executives: 6575; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 11%; 
Other: <1%; 
Terminated: 0%; 
Resigned: 2%; 
Retired: 7%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: <1%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2%. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] Due to rounding, the sum of the attrition rates by separation type 
may not add to the rate of attrition. 

[B] The sum of the average number of SES in the individual DHS 
components (excluding TSA) in table 17 will not equal the average 
number of DHS (excluding TSA) in table 18 because these are average 
numbers, and not total numbers, of SES employed over the year. 

[End of table] 

Table 19: Fiscal Year 2008 Attrition Data by Separation Type for Senior 
Executives at All DHS Components: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives: 144; 
Total attrited: 15; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 4; 
Retired: 5; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 1; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 5. 

Agency: CBP; 
Average number of executives: 89; 
Total attrited: 8; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 2; 
Retired: 5; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 1. 

Agency: FEMA; 
Average number of executives: 54; 
Total attrited: 10; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 4; 
Retired: 4; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2. 

Agency: ICE; 
Average number of executives: 51; 
Total attrited: 8; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 2; 
Retired: 6; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USSS; 
Average number of executives: 47; 
Total attrited: 11; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 11; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USCIS; 
Average number of executives: 41; 
Total attrited: 1; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 1; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: USCG; 
Average number of executives: 12; 
Total attrited: 0; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 0; 
Retired: 0; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 0. 

Agency: DHS headquarters; 
Average number of executives: 102; 
Total attrited: 18; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 13; 
Retired: 2; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 3. 

Agency: Rest of DHS[A]; 
Average number of executives: 53; 
Total attrited: 5; 
Other: 0; 
Terminated: 0; 
Resigned: 2; 
Retired: 2; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 1. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] Includes Office of the Inspector General; Federal Law Enforcement 
Training Center; OUS Information Analysis and Infrastructure 
Protection; and OUS for Science and Technology. 

[End of table] 

Table 20: Fiscal Year 2008 Attrition Rates by Separation Type for 
Senior Executives at TSA, DHS, and all Cabinet-Level Departments: 

Agency: TSA; 
Average number of executives: 144; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 10%; 
Other: <1%; 
Terminated: 0%; 
Resigned: 3%; 
Retired: 3%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 1%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 3%. 

Agency: DHS (excluding TSA)[B]; 
Average number of executives: 446; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 14%; 
Other: 0%; 
Terminated: 0%; 
Resigned: 5%; 
Retired: 7%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: 0%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2%. 

Agency: Cabinet-level agencies (excluding DHS); 
Average number of executives: 6791; 
Rate of attrition[A]: 11%; 
Other: <1%; 
Terminated: <1%; 
Resigned: 2%; 
Retired: 6%; 
Termination - expiration of appointment: <1%; 
Voluntary/other transfer: 2%. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from OPM's Central Personnel Data File. 

[A] Due to rounding, the sum of the attrition rates by separation type 
may not add to the rate of attrition. 

[B] The sum of the average number of SES in the individual DHS 
components (excluding TSA) in table 19 will not equal the average 
number of DHS (excluding TSA) in table 20 because these are average 
numbers, and not total numbers, of SES employed over the year. 

[End of table] 

[End of section] 

Appendix III: Transportation Security Administration National Exit 
Survey: 

Figure: two page exit survey: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

[End of figure] 

[End of section] 

Appendix IV: Comments from the Department of Homeland Security: 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security: 
Washington, DC 20528: 

October 7, 2009: 

Mr. Stephen M. Lord: 
Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 
Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street, N.W. 
Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Mr. Lord: 

This letter presents the Department of Homeland Security's official 
response to the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) draft report, 
"TSA Executive Attrition has Declined, but Better Information is Needed 
on Reasons for Leaving and Executive Hiring Process" (GA0-09-818), as 
amended. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) appreciates 
the opportunity to respond to your investigation. 

As the draft report notes, attrition from the Transportation Security 
Executive Service (TSES) has consistently remained lower than 
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Senior Executive Service (SES) 
attrition since 2004, throughout the period of your review, and has 
been equal to or lower than the rest of government SES attrition level 
since 2007. This level of attrition demonstrates that TSA has built a 
strong and stable executive leadership corps. 

Because of the methodology of GAO's survey of former TSES employees, 
TSA cannot respond to any anonymous responses from former TSES 
personnel regarding their reasons for separation. Individuals left TSA 
for a variety of reasons, including leadership opportunities in DHS and 
other Federal agencies, differences with leadership, and for 
performance and integrity related issues. Nevertheless, as the 
attrition rate demonstrates, many more TSES personnel have stayed with 
TSA than have left. 

As the report indicates, TSA was granted special personnel authority to 
grant temporary appointments to the TSES not exceeding three years, in 
order to directly recruit for specialized skills from the private 
sector. This temporary appointment authority was used mostly during the 
early, stand-up years of TSA from 2002 to 2004 for individuals on three 
year appointments. This authority is used much less today and only to 
recruit for more specialized TSES positions and candidates. While these 
positions are not always advertised, they comply in all respects with 
merit principles. It is important to note that candidates for temporary 
appointments go through a review process to ensure they possess the 
necessary qualifications to meet the requirements of the position. In 
addition, it is important to note that temporary appointments are made 
for a limited duration, and expected to end in resignation when the 
incumbent leaves TSA for their next professional opportunity. Temporary
appointees have not typically remained with TSA until the expiration of 
their terms, thus contributing to the attrition rate. 

As GAO notes, TSA has implemented a rigorous process for executive 
resources management consistent with effective human capital management 
practices and standards for internal control. Included in these 
procedures is a review of all TSES selections by the TSA Executive 
Resources Council (ERC), a panel of TSA executives who must review and 
concur in selections to ensure their compliance with merit principles 
established in 2006. These policies and procedures provide significant 
assurances that TSES selections are made in accordance with merit 
principles and free from improper influence. These policies include the 
need for proper documentation of selection information. 

While we agree with the need for proper documentation, TSA notes that 
GAO regarded records as deficient when there was not both a signed 
selecting official letter and a signed ERC recommendation, even when 
contemporaneous records existed. There is considerable documentation to 
support selections even if not always the exact documents sought by 
GAO. 

Furthermore, our policies and procedures have been reviewed and 
accepted by the Office of Personnel Management, which has granted an 
Interchange Agreement with TSA. The Interchange Agreement recognizes 
TSA's commitment to merit staffing by accepting our selection 
processes, permitting non-competitive selection of TSA employees for 
civil service positions in other Departments. 

GAO provided two recommendations to the draft report. TSA concurs with 
the recommendations and provides the following responses: 

GAO Recommendation 1: "To address attrition among TSES staff and 
improve management of TSES resources, we recommend that the TSA 
Administrator take the following two actions: 

Ensure that the National Exit Survey, or any other exit survey 
instrument TSA may adopt, can be used to distinguish between responses 
provided by TSES staff and other staff so that the agency can determine 
why TSES staff, in particular, are separating from TSA." 

TSA's Response: TSA concurs with this recommendation. TSA has amended 
the National Exit Survey to include TSES as an option under Question 
27, "What is your pay band?" The new version of the survey is already 
in use. 

GAO Recommendation 2: "To address attrition among TSES staff and 
improve management of TSES resources, we recommend that the TSA 
Administrator require that TSA officials involved in the staffing 
process for TSES staff fully document how they applied each of the 
merit staffing principles required by its staffing process when 
evaluating, qualifying, and selecting individuals to fill career TSES 
positions." 

TSA's Response: TSA concurs with this recommendation. TSA staff will 
ensure proper documentation of how merit staffing principles required 
by its staffing process are applied when evaluating, qualifying, and 
selecting individuals to fill career TSES positions. We have 
established a checklist for proper documentation, and go beyond the GAO 
recommendation by conducting an internal audit of TSES selection files 
on a quarterly basis. 

We thank you for considering our comments on these very important 
issues. We look forward to working with the GAO on future Homeland 
Security issues. 

Sincerely, 

Signed by: 

Jerald E. Levine: 
Director: 
Department GAO/OIG Liaison Office: 

[End of section] 

Appendix V: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Stephen M. Lord, (202) 512-8777 or lords@gao.gov: 

Staff Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the contact named above, Kristy Brown (Assistant 
Director) and Mona Blake (Analyst-in-Charge) managed this assignment. 
Maria Soriano, Kim Perteet, and Janet Lee made significant 
contributions to the work. Gregory Wilmoth, Catherine Hurley, and 
Christine San assisted with design, methodology, and data analysis. Tom 
Lombardi and Jeff McDermott provided legal support. Adam Vogt provided 
assistance with report preparation. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] TSA was initially created as an agency within the Department of 
Transportation. See Pub. L. No. 107-71, § 101(a), 115 Stat. 597 (2001) 
(codified as amended at 49 U.S.C. § 114). In March 2003, TSA, along 
with 21 other agencies, was transferred to the newly established 
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). See Pub. L. No. 107-196, § 
403(2), 116 Stat. 2135, 2178 (2002). 

[2] See H.R. Rep. No. 110-181, at 63 (June 8, 2007) (accompanying H.R. 
2638, the DHS Appropriations Bill, 2008). 

[3] GAO, Older Workers: Federal Agencies Face Challenges, but Have 
Opportunities to Hire and Retain Experienced Employees, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-630T] (Washington D.C.: Apr. 30, 
2008). 

[4] See Explanatory Statement accompanying Division E of the 
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-161, 121 Stat. 
1844, 2042 (2007), at 1054. The Explanatory Statement directed GAO to 
"report on the history of senior executive service-level career 
turnover since the formation of TSA." As such, our analysis does not 
include turnover among political appointees or senior-level TSA staff 
who do not hold executive-level positions even though some of these 
individuals perform work similar to TSES staff. For example, Federal 
Security Director (FSD) positions at larger airports are TSES-level, 
while FSD positions at smaller airports, generally, are not. In our 
analysis we only included turnover among TSES-level FSDs. 

[5] These cabinet-level departments are the Departments of Agriculture, 
Commerce, Education, Energy, Defense, Health and Human Services, 
Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, 
Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs. 

[6] Internal controls comprise the plans, methods, and procedures an 
agency uses to provide reasonable assurance that it can meet its 
missions, goals, and objectives; they also serve as the first line of 
defense in safeguarding assets and preventing fraud, waste, and abuse. 
A general framework for internal controls has been adopted by leading 
accountability organizations, including the GAO, the International 
Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, and the U.S. Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB). See GAO, Standards for Internal Control in 
the Federal Government, GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1 (Washington D.C.: November 
1999). 

[7] OPM's Central Personnel Data File is a repository of selected human 
capital data for most executive branch employees, including separations 
data. Political appointees were not included among the TSES and SES 
data we analyzed. Furthermore, for agencies like TSA that do not have 
SES, we included SES-equivalent positions. When we refer to 
"executives" throughout this report, we are referring to TSES, SES, and 
SES-equivalent positions. 

[8] More specifically, we determined the average number of TSES 
employed in a given fiscal year by averaging (1) the number of 
executive staff in the CPDF as of the last pay period of the fiscal 
year prior to the fiscal year for which the attrition rate was 
calculated and (2) the number of executive staff in CPDF as of the last 
pay period of the fiscal year in which the attrition occurred. 

[9] For all DHS SES attrition calculations, we included all SES staff 
separations from department-level employment, except those from TSA. 
For all cabinet-level department SES attrition calculations, we 
included all SES staff separations from cabinet-level departments 
except those from DHS. GAO does not generally present percentages when 
the total population is less than 50. For this reason, this report 
discusses changes in the rate of executive employment only for TSA, 
DHS, and all cabinet-level departments--each of which has executive 
populations numbering over 50. 

[10] TSA could not readily provide us data for TSES staff separating in 
fiscal year 2004 (due to a change in its data system for tracking human 
capital data). Therefore we were unable to interview staff from this 
period. 

[11] Initially, we attempted to select former TSES staff based on a 
probability sample in order to generalize about the reasons for TSES 
separation. Of the 46 TSES we interviewed, 31 were selected based upon 
a randomized list of the 95 separated TSES created to select this 
probability sample. However, we were unable to obtain an acceptable 
response rate for our sample, at which point we determined we would 
continue interviewing separated TSES until we had obtained responses 
from about half of the 95 separated TSES staff. We selected the 
remaining 15 separated TSES staff in our sample of 46 so that our 
entire sample would have similar proportions of three characteristics 
(fiscal year of separation, manner of separation, and job location) as 
the population of 95 TSES staff. For example, 66 percent of the 95 TSES 
who separated from 2005 through 2008 were employed at headquarters, and 
of the TSES we selected for interviews, about 70 percent had held 
headquarters positions. Ultimately, to obtain our sample of 46 TSES, we 
contacted a total of 70 of the 95 separated TSES, and of these 70, 24 
did not respond to our request for an interview. See appendix I for 
more information on our sample of TSES. 

[12] We selected direct reports for interviews by asking the TSES staff 
members we interviewed for names of individuals who directly reported 
to them and who were still working at TSA; they provided us with 52 
names, and we requested interviews with 25 of these. For the TSES 
supervisor interviews, TSA provided us with names of all 9 of the TSES 
still working at TSA who supervised any of the 95 TSES staff who 
separated during fiscal years 2005 through 2008; we conducted 
interviews with all but 2 of the supervisors identified. 

[13] Specifically, we reviewed the following GAO reports: GAO, A Model 
of Strategic Human Capital Management, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-02-373SP] (Washington, D.C.: March 
2002), and GAO, Human Capital: Key Principles for Effective Strategic 
Workforce Planning, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-39] 
(Washington, D.C.: December 2003). For internal controls standards, we 
reviewed GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1] (Washington 
D.C.: November 1999). 

[14] See 5 C.F.R. pt. 317. 

[15] We were interested in comparing how TSA followed its staffing 
policies, when they were initially created in 2006, with how it has 
followed them more recently in 2008--the most recent full calendar year 
when we undertook our review. Therefore, we did not review case files 
from 2007. 

[16] See 49 U.S.C. § 114(n). 

[17] See 49 U.S.C. § 40122 (requiring the establishment of an FAA 
personnel management system that, with certain exceptions, falls 
outside the authority of OPM and is to provide for greater flexibility 
in the hiring, training, compensation, and location of personnel). Many 
other executive branch agencies operate executive programs that are 
excluded from the SES by statute. These include, for example, the 
legislative and judicial branch agencies; independent government 
corporations; the Central Intelligence Agency; the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation; Drug Enforcement Administration; and certain financial 
management regulatory agencies, among others. However, in commenting on 
a draft of this report, OPM stated that in many instances executives at 
these agencies continue to be covered by Title 5 of the U.S. Code and 
OPM regulations. OPM is charged with ensuring that the federal 
government has an effective civilian workforce; specifically, it 
oversees the execution, administration, and enforcement of civil 
service laws, including the rules and regulations addressing a host of 
human capital issues, such as the selection, performance, pay, and 
separation of employees, including those pertaining to SES. See 
generally Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-454, 92 
Stat. 1111, as amended. 

[18] Under TSA policy, however, individuals who are being considered 
for limited term TSES appointments do not need to be subject to merit 
staffing requirements or the ECQ-evaluation process before being hired, 
in which case they would not be eligible for transfer to an SES 
position in another federal agency without undergoing the merit 
staffing process, per the interchange agreement, unless they were 
already an SESer prior to employment at TSA. 

[19] See generally 5 C.F.R. pt. 317. 

[20] Qualifications contain descriptions of the knowledge, skills, 
abilities, and other job-related factors required for the position. 

[21] Rating involves the agency's effort to differentiate among 
eligible candidates on the basis of knowledge, skills, abilities, and 
other job-related factors, which are generally identified or based upon 
descriptions within the position qualifications. See 49 C.F.R. § 
317.501(c)(3). 

[22] Determination of those candidates who are best qualified is based 
upon the rating and ranking process. 

[23] TSA's Office of Security Operations is responsible for overseeing 
various agency security initiatives, such as passenger and checked 
baggage screening at airports. The Office of Global Strategies is 
responsible for coordinating and overseeing TSA security efforts 
abroad. TSES headquarters positions include such titles as Assistant 
Administrators, General Managers, and Directors, among others. 

[24] For the purposes of our analysis, we considered all separation 
modes as part of our attrition analysis. 

[25] Since its establishment, TSA has been led by four different 
administrators, including James McGaw (January 2002-July 2002); James 
Loy (July 2002-December 2003); David Stone (December 2003-May 2005); 
and Kip Hawley (June 2005-January 2009). In January 2009, Gale Rossides 
was named Acting Administrator of TSA; as of October 9, 2009, TSA does 
not have a new Administrator. 

[26] We also compared TSES attrition to that of SES in other DHS 
components, specifically, those in the Federal Emergency Management 
Agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. 
Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs 
Enforcement, U.S. Secret Service, DHS Headquarters (a distinct 
component within CPDF data which includes all DHS executive staff in 
positions serving departmentwide functions, such as those involving 
financial or human capital management), and the "Rest of DHS" (a 
category we developed for all SES not belonging to any of the 
previously identified components). Appendix II presents separations 
data for each of these components for fiscal years 2004 through 2008 
(including average TSES, total separations, and separations by type). 

[27] See appendix II for rates of resignations, retirements, transfers, 
terminations, and terminations due to expirations of a term appointment 
for TSA TSES, DHS SES, and SES in cabinet-level departments. 

[28] Exit interviews seek to obtain information from employees on why 
they are leaving their current positions. Such interviews may be 
conducted orally or through use of a written survey, and their design 
and content vary widely across jurisdictions. One limitation of these 
interviews is that workers may not be candid in their disclosure of 
information because they do not wish to sever relationships with 
coworkers and managers. 

[29] We interviewed TSES who separated during the fiscal year 2005 
through 2008 time period because (1) this was a more stable period in 
TSA's history, following the agency's initial formation and transfer to 
DHS; and (2) TSA could not readily provide us with a total list of all 
TSES staff for prior fiscal years, due to a change in its personnel 
data system. See appendix I for more information on our selection of 
TSES for interviews. 

[30] The TSES we interviewed left the agency through different 
separation types--resignation, retirement, expiration of a term 
appointment, termination, and transfer to another federal agency. See 
appendix I for more detail on how we selected former TSES staff for 
interviews. 

[31] Nor did we try to confirm through any other sources the conditions 
that prompted the TSES staff to separate. Furthermore, because we did 
not interview SES staff at other DHS components or cabinet departments, 
we could not determine whether the reasons for leaving given by TSES 
and the proportions of those giving adverse versus nonadverse reasons 
are different from or similar to reasons for leaving for other SES 
staff. 

[32] Re-employed annuitant waivers are a type of human capital 
flexibility available to TSA and other federal agencies that allow 
individuals who retired from a federal government position and are 
collecting a federal annuity to continue receiving their full annuity 
in addition to their federal salary if they are hired for another 
federal position. Under normal circumstances, federal employees who are 
federal annuitants would have the amount of their annuity deducted from 
their salaries. These waivers are typically used when a program office 
has an urgent need to hire experienced, qualified staff--such as the 
need TSA had for executives with significant transportation security 
experience following its creation. Although TSA's reannuitant waivers 
were generally for a period of 5 years, TSA extended some beyond the 5- 
year period. 

[33] In 2007, we reported that TSA has since vested FSDs at individual 
airports with responsibility for hiring transportation security 
officers, but continues to provide contractor support to assist FSDs in 
this effort. See GAO, Aviation Security: TSA's Staffing Allocation 
Model Is Useful for Allocating Staff among Airports, but Its 
Assumptions Should Be Systematically Reassessed, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-299] (Washington, D.C.: February 
2007). 

[34] We were unable to determine, and TSA was unable to confirm, 
whether these charts depicted all TSA reorganizations since the 
agency's creation. 

[35] Specifically, these charts identified only upper-level TSA 
divisions reporting directly to the Office of the TSA Administrator and 
the TSES staff person in charge of these divisions. As such, we were 
not able to identify changes in lower-level TSES staff within each 
division from one reorganization to another. See appendix I for more 
information on how we conducted our analysis of TSA organization 
charts. 

[36] TSA provided data on the cumulative amounts of bonuses awarded to 
TSES from fiscal year 2005 through 2008 (as opposed to the amount per 
fiscal year); therefore, all bonus amounts identified represent the 
cumulative amount awarded to employees over this time period. In 
addition, if the recipient did not fulfill the conditions attached to 
these awards, the total amount awarded might not have been paid; we did 
not ascertain whether all awarded amounts were paid. 

[37] In addition to providing data on bonuses, TSA also provided data 
on the amount of relocation, retention, and recruitment payments 
awarded to TSES staff. However, since TSA provided us with a single sum 
for all these payments, we could not separately identify the amount of 
the bonus from other payments made for recruitment, retention, or 
relocation purposes, when a TSES staff person received other types of 
payments. Thus we excluded from our analysis any individual receiving 
payments for recruitment, retention, or relocation, in addition to 
bonuses. Specifically, we excluded data for 4 TSES staff who separated 
during fiscal years 2005 through 2008, and 34 TSES staff who were 
employed throughout the 4-year period. 

[38] One additional direct report stated that impact on programs was 
not applicable because the division had not started any programs. 

[39] Secure Flight matches airline passenger lists against watch lists 
maintained by the federal government; TWIC is a program to issue 
credentials to individuals who require unescorted access to maritime 
facilities. See GAO, Aviation Security: TSA Is Enhancing Its Oversight 
of Air Carrier Efforts to Identify Passengers on the No Fly and 
Selectee Lists, but Expects Ultimate Solution to Be Implementation of 
Secure Flight, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-992] 
(Washington, D.C.: September 2008), and GAO, Transportation Security: 
Transportation Worker Identification Credential: A Status Update, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-1151T] (Washington, 
D.C.: September 2008). 

[40] GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1] (Washington 
D.C.: November 1999). 

[41] GAO, A Model of Strategic Human Capital Management, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-02-373SP] (Washington, D.C.: March 
2002). 

[42] GAO, Human Capital: Key Principles for Effective Strategic 
Workforce Planning, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-39] 
(Washington, D.C.: December 2003). 

[43] TSA officials made the announcement that separating TSES staff 
would be able to take the exit survey via e-mail communication to all 
Assistant Administrators and Business Management Office leads. Each TSA 
office is responsible for providing the survey information to 
separating employees, including members of the TSES. TSA expected the 
process to become centrally administered in July 2009 when TSA's human 
capital services contractor is to assume responsibility for managing 
the survey process. 

[44] See appendix III for a copy of TSA's National Exit Survey. 

[45] Specifically, respondents are asked to identify their most recent 
job category; respondents may select among the following categories: 
TSO, LTSO, Master TSO, STSO, Expert TSO, Screening/Security Manager, 
FSD Staff, and HQ Staff. Another question asks respondents to identify 
whether their position was "supervisory" or "or non-supervisory." See 
appendix III for a copy of the survey. 

[46] Transportation Security Administration Office of Human Capital, 
TSA Handbook to Management Directive No. 1100.30-24, Transportation 
Security Executive Service Program (Washington, D.C.: November 2008). 

[47] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1]. 

[48] Transportation Security Administration Office of Human Capital, 
TSA Handbook to Management Directive No. 1100.30-24, Transportation 
Security Executive Service Program (Washington, D.C.: November 2008). 

[49] TSA has had two succession plans; the first was approved in June 
2006, and a later revised plan was reviewed and approved by the ERC in 
September 2008. The 2008 plan was further updated in December 2008. 

[50] TSA's pay bands are ranges of salary compensation for staff not 
within the senior executive service or political appointees. TSA pay 
bands range from A through M. Pay for the three highest bands' (K 
through M) ranges from $81,681 through $149,000; these figures do not 
include locality pay. 

[51] For some positions, the agency may look for candidates outside of 
TSA's current workforce. 

[52] TSA has implemented the SLDP in four phases, which focus on 
specific TSES positions; thus far, it has successfully completed two 
phases, with a third underway. As of July 2009, 165 TSA employees have 
been accepted and 156 participated in the SLDP, and of these, 9 have 
received career appointments to TSES positions. 

[53] GAO, A Model of Strategic Human Capital Management, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-02-373SP] (Washington, D.C.: March 
2002). 

[54] However, career-appointed TSES who wish to transfer to career SES 
positions in other federal agencies without competing against other 
applicants (per the DHS-OPM Interchange Agreement) must be hired in 
accordance with merit-based staffing requirements. 

[55] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1]. 

[56] We looked at the case files, specifically, for all competitively 
filled career TSES appointments for calendar years 2006 and 2008 
because TSA requires, per its own ERC charter guidance issued in March 
2006, the use of merit-based staffing procedures for these selections. 
See appendix I for more detail on our methodology for evaluating 
staffing folders. 

[57] According to merit staffing requirements, individuals selected for 
their initial appointment to an executive-level position must be 
selected competitively, which involves rating and ranking the candidate 
against other applicants. 

[58] See 5 C.F.R. § 317.501(d). 

[59] Presidential appointees are appointed by the President and may be 
confirmed by the Senate. They generally occupy the highest departmental 
and agency positions and serve at the will of the President. 

[60] See Explanatory Statement accompanying Division E of the 
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-161, 121 Stat. 
1844, 2042 (2007), at 1054. 

[61] Because our mandate asked that we specifically look at turnover 
among senior-executive staff, we did not collect data on political 
appointees or senior-level TSA staff who did not hold TSES positions 
even though some of these individuals held positions similar to TSES-- 
such as Federal Security Director, Special Agent in Charge, and Deputy/ 
Assistant Special Agent in Charge. Also, SES-equivalent positions refer 
to executives at agencies like TSA that do not have SES. When we refer 
to "executives" throughout this report, we are referring to TSES, SES, 
and SES-equivalent positions. 

[62] Aside from TSA, of all other components, only U.S. Customs and 
Border Protection (for all fiscal years) and DHS Headquarters (for 
fiscal years 2007 and 2008 only) had over 50 executives. 

[63] There were 15 positions we asked TSA to identify as headquarters 
or field staff for the fiscal year 2004 to 2008 time period. 

[64] See GAO, OPM's Central Personnel Data File: Data Appear 
Sufficiently Reliable to Meet Most Customer Needs, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/GGD-98-199] (Washington, D.C.: 
September 1998). GAO/GGD-98-199 does not provide data specific to 
"total separations" or "separation types"; however, it can be inferred 
from what is in the report that the key data elements of this study 
(i.e., pay plan, agency, nature of action, and effective date) are 
reliable. Moreover, in a document dated February 28, 2008, an OPM 
official confirmed that OPM continues to follow the same CPDF data 
quality standards and procedures discussed in our 1998 report that led 
us to conclude initially that CPDF data were reliable. 

[65] Due to a change in its system for tracking human capital 
information, data on TSES staff prior to August 2005 were difficult and 
time-consuming for TSA to provide; therefore, we did not include TSES 
separating before fiscal year 2005 within our sample in order to 
expedite the receipt of a complete list of former TSES from which to 
make our interviewee selections. 

[66] Specifically we received two for 2002; two for 2003; two for 2004; 
two for 2005; one for 2006; and one for 2008. We were unable to 
determine, and TSA was unable to confirm, whether these charts depicted 
all TSA reorganizations since the agency's creation. Furthermore, 
because these charts only identified TSES staff members who led each 
division, our analysis did not capture the changes in lower-level TSES 
staff resulting from reorganizations. 

[67] We were unable to use these charts to determine the extent of 
organizational change (that is, the number of changes in placement of 
divisions within the organization) resulting from reorganizations 
because, for various reasons, mergers and separations between divisions 
were not always clear when comparing the successive charts. 

[68] These were with four Assistant Administrators, one supervisory 
FSD, and two other TSES in positions which required them to supervise 
other TSES. We did not request an interview with the remaining 
supervisor because this person was the Acting Administrator of TSA, and 
her views would be captured in the agency's final comment upon our 
draft. 

[69] At this point in our engagement, we had interviewed a total of 38 
separated TSES staff members. 

[70] The separated TSES staff members who identified direct reports had 
been placed into these categories based on the preliminary results of 
the content analysis we were performing to determine the reasons for 
TSES separation. 

[71] Because a smaller number of direct reports were identified by TSES 
in the former two groups (nonadverse only and a combinations of adverse 
and nonadverse), we selected all direct reports identified by these two 
groups--a total of 11 individuals (5 were identified by the non-adverse 
only group and 6 were identified by the combination group). With regard 
to direct reports identified by separated TSES staff reporting only 
adverse reasons, we selected one direct report from each separated TSES 
who provided names, a total of 15 individuals. 

[72] Two of the direct reports identified to use for interviews had 
already left TSA; because the separated TSES provided contact 
information for these individuals, we were able to interview them. 
These were the only direct reports we interviewed who were not 
currently employed with TSA. 

[73] Specifically, we spoke with officials from Airports Council 
International, the International Air Transport Association, the 
American Public Transportation Association, the Airport Law Enforcement 
Agencies Network, the American Association of Port Authorities, the 
World Shipping Council, and the Chamber of Shipping of America. The 
remaining six industry groups that we contacted did not respond to our 
initial request for an interview, thus we were not able to obtain their 
views. Of the six industry groups that did not respond, two were 
aviation associations, two were maritime transport associations, and 
two were surface transportation associations. 

[74] See GAO, A Model of Strategic Human Capital Management, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-02-373SP] (Washington, 
D.C.: March 2002), and GAO, Human Capital: Key Principles for Effective 
Strategic Workforce Planning, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-39] (Washington, D.C.: December 
2003). 

[75] See [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-02-373SP], and 
GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1] 
(Washington, D.C.: November 1999). 

[76] Transportation Security Administration Office of Human Capital, 
TSA Handbook to Management Directive No. 1100.30-24, Transportation 
Security Executive Service Program (Washington, D.C.: November, 2008). 

[77] Transportation Security Administration Office of Human Capital, 
Succession Plan for TSA (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 24, 2008, updated Dec. 
1, 2008). Transportation Security Administration Office of Human 
Capital, Succession Plan for TSA (Washington, D.C.: June 2006). 

[78] Pursuant to ATSA, TSA adopted the personnel management system 
established by the Federal Aviation Administration, which falls outside 
of OPM's jurisdiction and, therefore, is not bounded by OPM 
requirements, including merit staffing requirements for executive 
appointments. See 49 U.S.C. §§ 114(n), 40122(g); see also generally 49 
C.F.R. tit. 5. However, TSA's ERC charter, which identifies TSA's 
process for staffing TSES staff, states that the process follows merit 
staffing procedures; moreover, the TSA Assistant Administrator for 
Human Capital stated in an interview that merit staffing procedures, as 
identified within regulations, are embedded within TSA's staffing 
process. See generally 49 C.F.R. pt. 317. 

[79] Specifically, we looked at 25 case files dating from March 2006 
(when TSA's staffing process was established) through the end of 
calendar year 2006 and 16 case files from calendar year 2008 (the most 
recent full calendar year in which TSA was following its ERC process). 

[80] The remaining TSES at smaller DHS components we included within 
the category, "Rest of DHS," table notes identify which TSA component 
executives are included within this category for each fiscal year. 

[End of section] 

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