"We strongly believe that airports should make the decision," McElroy said. "If the airports decide to do it, there shouldn't be barriers."
TSA has wasted a great deal of money through procurement mistakes, such as the $29.6 million purchase of 207 explosives- detecting "puffer" machines that didn't work in an airport environment, Rogers said. Machines intended to read boarding passes and check for fraudulent documents may cost more than $100 million without a clear justification of the cost, according to the report by Rogers' staff.
"We waste a lot of money jumping through too quickly to buy the latest and greatest shiny thing," Rogers said.
Wanting to change TSA is easier than doing it, said Kip Hawley, who ran the agency under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009.
A lawmaker proposing an overhaul would probably be invited to a closed-door briefing about the hundreds of known al-Qaida operatives and how a small chunk of C4 plastic explosive could down an airplane, Hawley said. It's easier to add security steps than eliminate them, he said.
Still, the public perception of the TSA, dominated by stories of encounters between low-risk passengers and overzealous agency officers, has created tension in airports that hurts security, Hawley said.
"It's a cycle of pain that appears endless," Hawley said.
No congressman wants to be held responsible for changes to security that backfire, said Jeff Price, an aviation consultant with Leading Edge Strategies in Denver, Colorado.
"If you're the one who successfully made the switch, and there's another terrorist attack, not only are lives lost, but you can kiss your career goodbye," Price said.
Rogers said there's more risk in not giving TSA direction.
"It's like a teenager," Rogers said. "Their limbs are growing faster than their coordination. It was understandable that they would have some problems, just like teenagers do. We're at the point now where people expect more maturity."