Airport asks for private screeners

Posted by Sarah Chacko

The Orlando Sanford International Airport is reattempting to opt out of using Transportation Security Administration employees for screening under new rules that should make it easier for airports to contract the work.

A law enacted last month requires TSA to approve applications from airports that want to contract their passenger screening and security services if contractors can do the job as good or better than federal screeners without affecting costs. TSA has to provide feedback on the basis for any decision, including how denied applications could be improved.

Four Montana airports and the Springfield Branson National Airport in Missouri applied for the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) but were all denied last January. The Orlando Sanford International Airport applied for the program a few years ago but was denied, according to the Orlando Sun Sentinel.

Currently, 16 airports including San Francisco International and Kansas City International use contractors to screen passengers. The bill would allow any of the nation’s 450 airports that use federal screeners to switch to contractors.

“Airport operators have expressed tremendous interest in the SPP and that expansion beyond the small fraction of U.S. airports that currently participate in the SPP will allow TSA to focus on security and oversight activities,” Republican Reps. John Mica, Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz said in a March 13 letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole.

Pistole stopped approving requests from airports to replace federal screeners with private screeners last year. Pistole told lawmakers at a recent House hearing that he did not see any “clear and substantial advantage” to expanding the program when he became TSA administrator in 2010.

But lawmakers argued that ”clear and substantial” was a standard added by the administrator.

The House members asked Pistole to provide a timetable for transitioning to the new law, which requires him to reassess airport applications denied last year according to the new review process and standards.

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