A report from the Office of the Inspector General at the US Department of Homeland Security released Tuesday strongly recommended that the Transportation Security Administration reorganize its Ombuds Office and bolster other conflict management programs. The Inspector General found that many TSA employees don't trust or know about the program. The report also recounted several anecdotes from TSA employees who were intimidated by supervisors for attempting to visit with the Ombuds. The Inspector General therefore recommended that TSA restructure its Ombuds Office to report directly to the head of the agency rather than a special counselor, thus ensuring the Ombuds' independence. In addition, TSA was urged to establish a charter outlining the Ombuds' authority and permit the office to carry out its duties without interference. A TSA spokesperson denied charges of low morale and defended the agency's remedial efforts. (OIG Report; USA Today; Homeland Security Today; Pro Publica.
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The Inspector General's recommendations would bring the TSA Ombuds program in line with the standards recognized by the International Ombudsman Association and the American Bar Association, and go a long way toward restoring employees' confidence in the program. The silver lining in this story is the Inspector General's recognition of the value of an effective Ombuds program.