Florida airport pushing to opt out of TSA

updated 3:45 PM EDT, Wed March 14, 2012

(CNN) -- A Florida airport is pushing to join 16 other U.S. airports in opting out of Transportation Security Administration screening in favor of private screeners.

Orlando Sanford International Airport has been trying to get approval since last year to join the TSA's Screening Partnership Program, which helps airports hire qualified private screening companies to enforce security protocol set and overseen by the TSA. The airport's application has been denied twice.

"We're not booting the TSA. This is a TSA program created by congress," said Larry Dale, the airport's president and CEO.

The partnership started in 2002 with five airports participating in the pilot program. There are now 16 participating airports, including San Francisco International and Kansas City International. One additional airport, West Yellowstone in Montana, was approved in January.

Legislation championed by representative John Mica, R-Florida, and signed into law with the much-delayed FAA reauthorization bill in February was designed to make it easier for airports to join the program. Orlando Sanford has submitted a request to the TSA to reconsider its application, under a stipulation outlined in the bill, Dale said.

"We believe in free enterprise and holding people accountable for efficiency, safety and security," Dale said.

The TSA is "developing procedures to implement the Screening Partnership Program-related provisions included in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012," the agency said in a statement. The TSA administrator is required to approve airport applications for the program if security is uncompromised, cost efficiency is maintained and the screening of passengers and property is not negatively impacted.

Orlando Sanford International Airport saw close to 1.6 million passengers in 2011, compared with more than 35 million passengers at neighboring Orlando International Airport.

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