Gingrich blasts TSA, e-bureaucracy

Thomas

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who launched his own electronic revolution in the 1990s, said today that the Transportation Security Administration has developed a "stunningly inefficient system" to screen passengers.

"What we've done now is embedded a federal bureaucracy to stand around airports," Gingrich said. "It's a stunningly inefficient system that needs to be rethought from the ground up."

Gingrich said most passengers would welcome a faster way to get through security and would be willing to provide biometric indicators to pave the way.

"Frequent flyers should have the ability to go through security very fast," Gingrich said. Most would say, "'I'm willing to give you my retinal scan if I can get through security in two minutes,'" he added.

Gingrich, who resigned from Congress in November 1998 following a controversial four years as House speaker, spoke at the E-Government conference sponsored by FCW Media Group.

In an interview with Federal Computer Week, he said the government must work harder to bring e-government to its citizens and move more quickly to "reflect what the citizens want, not what the bureaucrats think they want."

He said it is important to get people to think about "e-society first," and then e-government. The question a government should ask, he said, is "What is it that its citizens should be expecting?"

Gingrich said government is still trying to improve the "pre-Information Age bureaucracy" instead of thinking for the future.

He pointed to the Library of Congress' Thomas — the first free, public electronic legislative database — as an example of how to cut through bureaucracy. Unlike most government projects that are first "studied to death," Gingrich said he made sure Thomas was launched the day after he was sworn in as House speaker, even though technology personnel told him it would be "a mess" at first.

"That's how you get real change," he said. "It is the only way it will happen."

In his speech today to information technology executives from the public and private sectors, Gingrich said the first quarter of the 21st century will see as much change as the entire 20th century did.

"It will be a much bigger change than you think," Gingrich predicted. "It will be four times the rate of change as the 20th century."

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