Congressional overseers urge TSA to “refrain from approving” airport applications for private security screeners

Source: Steve Watson

Orlando could soon be the destination of choice for Americans and other holiday makers who wish to avoid TSA harassment, after Orlando International Airport (OIA) said it could follow it’s neighbour airport, Orlando Sandford, in seeking to replace the government agency with private screeners.



As Fox 35 Orlando reports, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) is now seeking to institute new customer service standards at the airport, with the Chairman suggesting that private security could be brought in should the TSA fail to meet them.

“Once we establish those (standards), we’ll evaluate,” said Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher. “Can the TSA meet those standards or not? Should we put it out for a bid?” he rhetorically asked.

The airport, currently under TSA security supervision ranks 11th for thefts by security screeners. Kruppenbacher described that as “unacceptable”, and raised the possibility of evicting the TSA.

“I could care less about the politics of this. All I care about is seeing those customers smiling, saying I love the airport, and I love Orlando, and we are going to do that.” Kruppenbacher said.

The Chairman said that members of the GOAA Board will make a decision based on a report due to be submitted in March 2013. If the TSA was deemed to fall outside of the required standards, the airport would then have to apply to be accepted for the TSA’s Screening Partnership Program, which enables airport authorities to opt out of using TSA workers, and instead use private operators to screen passengers, using federal standards and oversight.

Scores of airports throughout the country have already applied to evict the TSA, following the recent passage of a law by the Senate forcing the TSA to reconsider applications after it arbitrarily suspended the SPP program in 2010.

OIA’s neighbour airport, Orlando Sanford International announced in March that it was reapplying to evict the TSA following innumerable horror stories passengers have told of their encounters with the TSA. Airport president Larry Dale noted that the change was designed to provide a more “customer friendly” operation. The application was preliminarily approved in June, and could prompt a stampede of other airport opt-outs.

The TSA has been keen to downplay the opportunity for airports to dispense with their screeners, fearing a mass exodus that could undermine the justification for the agency’s continued existence, especially given the fact that its reputation has been repeatedly savaged by a number of scandals.

The SPP has come under further attack this week following a report released by the congressional investigative Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggesting that TSA should more closely “monitor private versus federal screener performance.”

In a statement relating to the report, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, advised the TSA not to accept any more SPP applications from airports until the issue has been looked at.

Thompson writes “…some privatized airports do not perform passenger screening as well as their federalized counterparts.”

“TSA does not have the proper controls in place to regularly monitor private screener performance and does not validate data on attrition, absenteeism, and injury rates for privatized screeners.” he adds

“GAO also shows that under the current system, it is impossible to accurately measure any system cost-savings or efficiencies by moving to the SPP model. Therefore, I would urge Administrator Pistole to refrain from approving additional SPP airports until the costs and possible benefits can be accurately assessed and we can more closely monitor the program.” Thompson’s statement reads

Screeners employed by private companies are already used at 16 airports under the SPP. Republican Representatives John Mica of Florida, Darrell Issa of California and Jason Chaffetz of Utah have pressed TSA head Pistole to implement the mandate and accept applications from other airports. Mica has personally written to 200 airports advising them of the opportunity to op out of using TSA screeners.

“It’s critical that TSA get out of the business of running a huge bureaucracy and human resources operation and refocus its attention on security, analyzing intelligence, and setting the highest risk-based security standards. TSA needs to focus on going after terrorists — not little old ladies, veterans and children.” Mica has said.