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Robert Longley

About the $50M TSA Uniform Contract

By March 8, 2013

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It may have looked bad when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awarded a $50 million contract to buy new uniforms for TSA agents less than a week before the March 1 budget sequestration began, but just how bad was it, really?

Other than being very poorly timed, not that bad. The contract, awarded on Feb. 22, to VF Imagewear Inc. of Nashville, Tennessee, is not for newly-designed, more expensive uniforms, but to continue the supply of uniforms constantly required by the TSA.

The Feb. 22 contract is in fact a one-year extension of a contract for TSA uniforms first awarded to VF Imagewear in 2003.

The contract does not include design services, which are typically obtained through separate contracts. TSA uniforms were last re-designed in 2008.

According to the bid's "Notice of Intent" issued Dec. 12, 2012, the contract is only for "acquisition of TSA uniform items."

But those facts did not stop some people from jumping to some conclusions about the contract. "The uniform contract for the TSA workers, $50 million. Divided by the number of TSA employees, it does work out to about a thousand dollars per employee per uniform," said Rush Limbaugh said on his March 6, radio show.

However, the contract provides each of the approximately 50,000 TSA security officers with three full sets of uniforms, which they pay for through an annual TSA-provided uniform allowance.

According to the TSA's Uniformed Employees Appearance and Responsibilities memo, the standard TSA uniform package provided under the contract consisting of 3 trousers, 3 short sleeve shirts, 3 long sleeve shirts, 2 neckties, 1 sweater vest, 1 team jacket, 2 pairs of shoulder boards, 1 belt, 3 pairs of socks, and 1 nametag.

And the $50 million is not all for uniforms. The contract also requires VF Imagewear to create and maintain a secured, web-based system through which authorized TSA officers can order uniforms.

Finally, as with all government contracts, $50 million is the maximum amount that can be paid to VF Imagewear during the term of the contract, not the actual amount that will be spent.

The government's need for new uniforms, both military and law enforcement, is massive and ongoing. Besides the military and TSA, a few other agencies needing uniforms are, Customs and Border Patrol, Parks and Wildlife, FBI, Drug Enforcement, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Capitol Police.

To meet its massive and ongoing need for uniforms, the government both saves money and stimulates the economy by contracting with private sector clothing makers.

The government contracting process provides opportunities for millions of U.S. small businesses, including minority- and women-owned businesses, as well as businesses owned by veterans and service-disabled veterans.

The really sad thing about this is that years of actual excessive and abusive spending have brought Americans to expect the worst of government, even when it's not that bad.

Also See:
Outrageous Examples of Waste, Fraud and Abuse
How Bad is This 'Sequestration' Thing?
Will Sequestration Make US Parks Ghost Towns?


March 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm
(1) Akvusn eh says:

Ok. Good point. But the basic problem is “approximately 50,000 TSA security officers”. Then I’d also like for their uniforms to have no pockets and they be prohibited from wearing shoes. Then again pajamas might be most appropriate – footies ok.

March 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm
(2) Irwin says:

You know what is interesting about this? I have to pay for my uniforms in the army, beyond the ones which were issued to me at basic training. They cost about $80 a set and are only supposed to have a “six month service life.” If I were to retire from the military after 20 years, how much money would I be paying for uniforms out of pocket based on this metric?

March 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm
(3) MimiR says:

So it’s cool for the government to grossly overpay for things because it might go to a minority-owned business?


Give the apologetics a break.

March 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm
(4) Alan says:

Again with the silly stimulus justification for government spending.

If you don’t take money away from a taxpayer to start with, they will spend it. Stimulus accomplished.

And if they are frugal and it gets put in the bank, it will be lent to someone else to spend. Stimulus accomplished.

But what if they put it in a mattress? Then the total supply of dollars buying things is reduced, inflation is reduced, prices are lower, more can be purchased with the same dollars. Stimulus accomplished.

Its just one more justification for expanding government, expanding the use of force in our lives. It has lowered our standard of living and made our economy less stable. And it rewards the unproductive.

March 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm
(5) usgovinfo says:

@ MimiR: At just about any store, 3 trousers, 3 short sleeve shirts, 3 long sleeve shirts, 2 neckties, 1 sweater vest, 1 jacket, 1 belt and 3 pairs of socks is going to cost you at least $470, which is how much TSA agents get for their yearly clothing allowance. Far less than the $1,000 Rush came up with.

Robert Longley

March 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm
(6) Dan says:

At the same time, TSA blocks the efforts of private contractors who can do a better job at a lower price.

The whole DHS is another agency whose only real purpose is to gouge the American taxpayers.

The excesses within DHS and TSA are shameful and demonstrate exactly why our government is too big and far to inefficient.

March 9, 2013 at 9:24 pm
(7) Concernicus says:

Mush Limbaugh distorting facts to try and make an anti-government political statement? No. Must be some side effects from all of those extra prescription pain killing drugs.

TSA is simply the latest whipping boy for the anti-gubmint crowd. Sure, let’s outsource to the always vaunted, always wonderful, always cost effective private sector. Just like we did in Iraq with Blackwater. Or Halliburton.

Then there is always the wonderfully efficient and cost effective for profit health care industry.

March 10, 2013 at 6:42 am
(8) usgovinfo says:

@Dan: Legislation enacted in early 2012 makes it easier for airports to replace TSA with private contractors. A few, including San Francisco, have done so and others are considering it. In most cases, however, better customer service, rather than cost savings, has been the key factor.

Robert Longley

March 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm
(9) TXmom says:

Thank you for clearing this up. As a TSA officer it is frustrating to read the headlines about “TSA spends 50 million on new uniform contract” The only reason it made headlines is because the uniform contract renews every year at roughly the same time of year and it just so happens sequestration took affect so everyone that is uninformed of what is really going on is so quick to criticize. TSA officers get a uniform allowance every year that stays in a uniform account and when we order new uniform items the money is then defucted ftom this account. We are not given a check and if we don’t spend our alotted allowance by 2/17/13 this year we loose what we don’t use. And in previous years our allowance has ranged from $150-$250 per year. TSA/DHS is doing their share of across the board cutbacks just not cutting out our annual uniform allowance to help officers replenish the uniforms needed to do the job. This allowance does not cover our shoes that must meet TSA requirements. Just an FYI for everyone before you fly next time and decide to talk trash to or about TSA officers …more than
1/4 of TSA officers are prior Military including myself. And I recall getting a yearly uniform allowance while serving in the Navy also.

April 4, 2013 at 10:41 am
(10) hamilton says:

When patriotic Americans start eliminating any traitors wearing a TSA uniform, it will be a huge waste of money. However, they will make great targets.

April 7, 2013 at 11:51 am
(11) Tommy says:

A thousand dollars per person for a year is too much. I’ve been in the uniform rental business for 20 years so I do know the costs involved. The shirts they wear cost no more than $30 as do the pants. Even when adding the cost for sweater vests, jackets, socks etc. The cost is excessive. Cut it in half and they will still be properly dressed.

Our Government spends too much on EVERYTHING!

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