TSA Halts Airports’ Shift to Private Screeners

A member of the House leadership has promised to investigate the decision.
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A member of the House leadership has promised to investigate the decision.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will not expand a program that allows U.S. airports to replace government security screeners with those from private industry, causing a member of the House leadership to promise to investigate the decision.

Under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, TSA was required to establish a program—the Screening Partnership Program (SPP)—enabling airports to have passenger and baggage screening conducted by qualified private screening companies working under TSA oversight.

Screeners employed by those companies must meet all employment suitability requirements applicable to Federal Security Officers, and receive compensation and other benefits not less than TSA screeners receive. Only 16 airports, out of 450, chose to participate in the SPP.

Nonetheless, TSA Administrator John Pistole denied a request by a Missouri airport to switch to private screeners, and Pistole has issued a memo to the TSA workforce saying “to preserve TSA as an effective, federal counterterrorism security network, the SPP will not be expanded beyond the current 16 airports, unless a clear and substantial advantage to do so emerges in the future."

However, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica supported replacing TSA screeners with those from private industry, and said the TSA’s decision would be reviewed. Mica’s full statement reads:

“It's unimaginable that TSA would suspend the most successfully performing passenger screening program we've had over the last decade. The agency should concentrate on cutting some of the more than 3,700 administrative personnel in Washington who concocted this decision, and reduce the army of TSA employees that has ballooned to more than 62,000.

“Nearly every positive security innovation since the beginning of TSA has come from the contractor screening program. I intend to launch a full investigation and review of the matter.”