TSA inspectors get a larger annual clothing allowance than Marine lieutenants get through their whole careers

TSA "officers" have a new deal: awesome new clothes to wear while they touch your genitals.

Under their new collective bargaining agreement, Transportation Security Administration officers get to spend more taxpayer money on their uniforms every year than a United States Marine Corps lieutenant can spend in a lifetime.

“TSA employees will see their uniform allowances nearly double to $446 per year,” the House Transportation Committee noted in a press release on the TSA’s new collective bargaining agreement. “By comparison, a combat Marine Lieutenant receives a one-time uniform allowance of $400. The cost of the increase in TSA uniform allowance is an estimated $9.63 million annually.”

TSA uniform perks more expensive than Marine Corps (Thanks, Marilyn!)

(Image: IMG_0374, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from eyeliam's photostream)


  1. So they’ve learnt the lesson of third-world military dictatorships: the better the uniform, the worse the regime.

  2. Officers don’t get a yearly clothing allowance. It is compensated through their pay, if I recall correctly. Enlisted members get an annual clothing allowance that is similar to what the TSA gets.

    Please note, this article is based on a Republican House Transportation Committee press release. They cited Marine officer clothing allowances (which I didn’t realize they received) to try to spin this. Contrast it (PDF) with a newly recruited enlisted Marine who will receive nearly $1800 in the first year followed by $400 – $600 per year.

    1. As you say: http://usmilitary.about.com/od/2011pay/a/clothingmarine.htm

      But that is, as always, beside the point, which is to determine if the existence of the TSA is doing more bad than good, infringing on your rights, maintaining a climate of latent terror, helping to ruin the image of the country… Did they ever catch any bad guys ? Are they ever really put to the test ?

      I am tired of the pettiness of the arguments in the discourse about the TSA. Reporting on the occasional case of abuse of persons, of budget or their purported stupidity doesn’t put a dent into that cancer.

      1. Actually, I think the point of the linked article and press release is that the House Republicans want to do some union bashing. Their report doesn’t talk about the abuses committed by TSA screeners. Apparently that doesn’t concern them. They are just annoyed that the screeners were allowed to unionize.

        1. The problem with unions is that one of the small people always ends up talking back to the 1%.  Money arguments are really a smokescreen.

        2. Actually, it was the Republicans who fought against the TSA.

          George Bush specifically did NOT want the x-ray scanners in the airports.  They were put in airports in 2010 under THIS administration.  Democrat Lieberman fought to put them in the airports, too.

          Republicans like Jason Chaffetz fought againt the TSA, and this Republican did his best to “stop the TSA.”


      2.  That’s not the fault of the poor practically-minimum wage workers who do the work. 

        You want to have an argument about TSA, well so do I, but don’t beef with working people.

        1. but don’t beef with working people

          I can’t see when I did this. I address the idea of a TSA altogether.

          1. It’s not minimum wage, but it’s not enough to support a family on either.  And I assume the uniforms are fairly expensive, and they have no choice but to wear them.  I don’t love the TSA, but if we have to have them, they should at least have good working conditions and fair pay.  In fact, if they had better pay perhaps they would attract better workers who would be less likely to abuse the power of their position.

    2. Marine male officers get a one-time allowance to help cover the exhorbitant cost of the dress blues and the ceremonial sword, neither of which enlisted Marines are required to buy.  Marine female officers get that allowance plus (like all female Marines) a one-time allowance (when I enlisted in 1979 it was $30) to cover the cost of underwear which the Corps issues to men but not women (there aren’t enough women in the Corps to make contracting that cost out a worth-while investment).

      The difference in Marine officer/enlisted pay kinda makes up for the lack of clothing allowance, ya know.

  3. I really don’t like the comparison here. It seems to pit one group against the other in a ‘either/or’ thing.

    The story should be Marines should get more—just on their own with out comparison to TSA agents.

  4. Let’s be fair and tell the whole story.  A single Marine O2 earns about $5,700.00 (including housing allowance) per month, while your typical GS-7 TSA agent earns less than $3,000.00 a month.  Enlisted military members get about $400.00 per year in clothing allowance.
    Happy 237th Birthday Marines. Semper Fidelis 

  5. Cory, it’s easy to fall into the trap of hating the TSA and believing everything bad about them, but as has been pointed out elsewhere the uniform allowance is similar to other non-officer positions. Perhaps it would be better to compare them to the USCG or the Border Patrol (which should have had jurisdiction instead of inventing a whole new agency, if you ask me).

    The biggest problem with the TSA is that they never had any competence at the top: too much “security theatre”, too much ignoring lessons learned by other countries due to a sort of national chauvinism and so on. A large part of the problems could be solved, but the siege mentality existing there now makes it nigh impossible for good ideas to enter.

      1. Well, I think it’s that Cory is still more of a lawyer than a reporter – the big difference being that the lawyer looks to reinforce the bias of his client, where the reporter tries to minimise his personal bias.

        Of course there is also the pundit, but that is just a print version of a shock jock. :)

  6. They are workers. Workers winning concessions through the collective bargaining process is a bad thing? This is something we fought very hard for in Wisconsin.

      1. There is no such thing as a “closed shop” in the United States, and there hasn’t been since 1947, when it was made illegal by federal law. 

        You cannot be forced to join a union, unless you count having to pay your share of negotiating costs, which are less than and different from union dues. Granted, there are workers out there who have been made so afraid of unions that they do think of the $5 they were “forced” to pay in order to receive their $100 raise that way.

  7. If you want to hate on the security theater apparatus, that’s fine, but how about laying off the poor sods who are trying to make a (not very good) living?  From what I can see, their jobs are not all that pleasant, especially when they have to deal with arrogant pricks who have a beef with the TSA and “Big Government”.

    I really don’t like to see Boing Boing hating on working people.  It’s not their fault.

    1.  It’s their fault if they take a job working for a questionable employer. As a premptive, I quit a job working for Conagra foods once I understood who I was working for. Yes there was questionable things going on.

      1. That doesn’t make the uniform allowance unreasonable.  If you’ve worked a uniform job (usually low-paid) and not got an allowance, you’ll know it’s a hit on your take-home.  We know the TSA goons are low-paid already.  Yea-hundred bucks for a rotation of uniform clothing items sounds entirely reasonable on its own.

        I think Cory’s got all “The TSA are bad and so everything about them is bad” on this one. 

        1. Right, because everything about the TSA is bad. So bad it’s turning me into a fucking Republican because that may be the only way to cut their funding off: in budgetary terms.

          1. You think the Republicans would get rid of the TSA? If they managed to disband the TSA, they’d replace it with no-bid contracts to the people who paid to get them elected. The rules would stay the same or get worse, the employees would be paid less, and the total cost would go up to cover the profits.

      2. I quit a job working for Conagra foods once I understood who I was working for. 

        Translation: I had sufficient money in the bank, marketable job skills (and/or a job waiting elsewhere), and relative freedom from debt for what I’m now characterizing as a principled stand  to be relatively painless.

        What you’re trying to imply, but which is highly unlikely, is that you threw yourself on your sword and incurred enormous personal hardships rather than sully yourself by association with that evil company one day more. Are you terribly scornful of the people you left behind? Did you even tell the secretaries and custodial workers what you’d learned, so that they too could quit in protest? Why not? 

        The TSA is bad in theory and an abomination in practice. But I’d rather be cavity-searched than sit silently through another round of privileged frequent fliers demanding that the proletariat take one for the team by walking away from a job and to the back of a very, very long line for the next one. Marie Antoinette would roll her eyes at this.

        1. When you snark at someone who actually did the right thing, you’ve gone over to the dark side.

          When you become an apologist for those who demean and degrade the people whom they are meant to serve, you personally are one of the building blocks of fascism.

          1. Oh, good lord, I’m a building block of fascism. Okay then. 

            The “right thing” to do, if you want someone to make a sacrifice so that you can have a more civil-liberties friendly flying experience, is to sacrifice flying yourself. If the airlines thought for a minute that the TSA was keeping 0.1% of their customers away, they’d raise holy hell in Washington.

            The wrong thing to do is to ask someone whose annual salary is the equivalent of five first-class BOS-to-LAX tickets to quit their jobs, to absolutely no effect other than the salving of your sensibilities.

            We have a saying here in fascist circles, Antinous / Moderator–check your privilege.

          2. The average TSA worker makes more in salary and benefits than I do. Check your own privilege.

        2. Nope, I followed my heart, and did what I feel was the right thing to do. Something I have done frequently in my life. Many times at detriment to what others may think of as success.

          You assume too much…

          It says a lot about you that you’d rather be molested than to open your eyes. Carry on, there’s cheese somehwere at the end.

    2. Boing Boing (and most likely everybody else) ‘s beef with the TSA comes directly from “the poor sods” not doing their job properly. If it was just security theater, fine. But they go so far as to humilate minorites, people with disabilities and special medical conditions wich is the direct responisbility of the people manning the check points and they are rightfully called out on it.

      1. You left off those “poor sods” who supplement their paychecks with iPads, computers, etc from people bags.
        The “poor sods” who take cash to pop you in a wheelchair and take you to the head of the line and get loud if you don’t offer them enough cash.
        The “poor sods” who wandered through the secure area looking for people to stop and frisk to flex their muscle.
        These actions are always called isolated, even after a group of agents was caught helping run a drug smuggling ring.

      2. Well, this is all part of the vicious circle, in that poor working conditions combined with too much temptation attracts the wrong sort of person for this sort of work. This shouldn’t be a McJob (which is was until the 9/11 attacks), it’s a job that we should want qualified, conscientious people to perform.

        I personally think the security theatre plays a large part in how the TSA screeners and passengers are drifting ever more into adversarial roles. Without respect, the screeners feel justified in treating passengers like shit, and passengers that are treated like shit have no desire to give any respect to the screeners.

    3. Yeah, but that’s the way this game is always played, isn’t it? “Oh, it’s not the entire TSA that’s bad, just a few bad apples.” “Don’t hate on the apples, it’s the whole TSA that’s screwed up.” Back and forth, back and forth.

      1. Much like everyone who wants to tell us about the good cops out there, that aren’t psychotic pepper sprayers or taking head shots with grenade launchers… everytime a “good cop” remains slient about his brother officers violating the law or someones rights he is no longer a “good cop” and is now another bad cop.

        The entire program is an expensive way to see exactly how much people are willing to accept in the name of “freedom” while sliding down the rabbit hole far away from freedom.  The system sucks and is populated with many people who suck.  There is enough hate for all, but if we slay the TSA beast its minions go away too… so that should be the best place to strike.

    4.  I’m with the Pope.  Those are the jobs available, people will take them.  Working people with crap jobs deserve a little relief from misery.  It’s sad that it’s in an essentially useless apparatus, but this is one of the few subsidies that’s allowed in an economy that needs more.

  8. There’s a long tradition of Officers in the military buying their own uniforms (which works out pretty nice for the military) vs. the enlisted ranks, who were issued their uniforms (now given a yearly allowance).  When I was commissioned as a Naval Officer 15 years ago, I believe I got a one time allowance during OCS of $250.  My uniforms (3-4 sets of khaki, one set of dress blues, one set of dress whites, one set of summer whites, one set of winter blues + shoes, covers, belts, buckles, etc) came to about $1200.  Which they conveniently let us be withdrawn from our paychecks over a year.  This in no way diminishes the awfulness of the TSA.

  9. Cory, we all hate the TSA and the security theatre it represents… But hating on unions is a pretty terrible position to argue from. Not to mention the press release is from a Republican source.

    These are the kinds of things that make me question libertarian critiques of government – do they really understand the machinations and labor demands of the workers or do they just see things as “faceless” bureaucracies?

    1. Good LORD can we stop with the “union” talking point? The “union,” such as it is, is not in effect yet, and it’s not even a real union.

  10. Just as an aside, as I know that the enlisted Marines clothing costs are similar to the enlisted Soldiers, the $410.40 the Marines get and the $309.60 that Soldiers get per year is a minimal amount seeing that replacing four sets of ACU’s as well as boots costs a hell of a lot more than that. That, by the way is the Basic allowance – that which a service member gets during the first three years of enlistment. After that it goes up a bit – see here: http://www.armytimes.com/projects/money/pay_charts/2012/clothing_allowances/

    If you go to this website: http://www.militaryclothing.com/IBS/SimpleCat/Shelf/ASP/Hierarchy/02.html you will see that four sets of uniforms alone cost almost $400 and that’s without including hats, boots, socks, underwear and coats.

    If you look at that first website there, you see that OFFICERS on the other hand, are not listed. Go to this site: http://www.military.com/benefits/military-pay/allowances/clothing-allowances.html for more on that broken down by male/female/service.

  11. Also, isn’t Marine promotion “up-or-out”? In other words, if you get passed over for promotion until a certain point, you have to leave. So no-one is spending their whole career as a Marine lieutenant- they either go up the ranks or leave the military.

  12. Enlisted soldiers get 309.70 per annum (boots for soldiers are over $100, and enlisted soldiers need at least two pairs a year; a full ACU uniform is about $80; PT shoes are at least $80 every 6 months; the new ASU dress uniform itself is over $400… you get the idea).  Marine enlisted service members get $410.40 for the same expenses.  Unless TSA has a physical fitness and dress uniform, they have 1/3 the expenses of service members.  For rates see  http://www.armytimes.com/projects/money/pay_charts/2012/clothing_allowances/

    1. A TSA worker is in unusually close bodily contact with the public every working day and thus needs a fresh uniform every day, especially if those uniforms are synthetic (picking up body odor far more readily than cotton.)  Military are typically surrounded by other military who are all in the same boat, so a soldier can probably wear the same ACU every day for a week. Also, TSA uniforms probably require dry cleaning, which is altogether forbidden for ACUs.

  13. 1-Military Personnel do not pay taxes on their purchases (a great benefit which brings into parity the clothing allowance).
    2-Military personnel also have afforded to them the ability to eat for free (on a meal card) or eat at paying only cost on base in a chow hall.
    3-Military personnel also live rent/utilities free in the BEQ or BOQ on base, or in base housing.
    4-Military Personnel also are afforded to buy gasoline on base at reduced taxes, and have a commute to work of minutes each day.

    I think TSA agents have to pay these costs at the regular rate? Right?

  14. Officers are expected to cover a number of expenses out of their regular pay, (their pay is calculated with these expenses in mind).  A simple example is a corporate executive, who is expected to pay for their suits at their own expense, as opposed to the building’s security guards.  Non-commissioned soldiers are either allowed to exchange kit for free, (typically reservists), or get a significant clothing allowance to cover replacements.

    If this was anyone other then the TSA, it would be a non-issue.  As much as I hate the TSA, this is more about a trade union negotiating a good contract, rather then being oppressed like most employees are.  We should be lauding their success.

    We can go back to hating them tomorrow.

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