By John Mica
When Congress established the Transportation Security Administration after 9/11, I helped craft airline passenger screening provisions.
OUR VIEW: Don't privatize, don't unionize
ANOTHER OPPOSING VIEW: Screeners deserve more rights
Two models of screening were established. The principle model established an all-federal TSA screening force. The second model provided that TSA would certify, regulate and oversee private contractors to perform screening functions.
Initially five airports — one in each size category — were selected for the federal-private model. Those chosen and operating successfully since 2002 are San Francisco; Kansas City, Mo.; Rochester, N.Y.; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and Tupelo, Miss.
The Government Accountability Office independently conducted performance evaluations of both models. GAO's initial evaluations found that the federal-private model performed statistically significantly better than the all-federal model. Subsequent evaluations have shown the federal-private model performing consistently as well as the all-federal model.
Two years following the 2001 law's enactment, all airports were permitted to apply to opt out of all-federal screening. Under this option, airports qualified by TSA can also take over screening functions, as Jackson Hole has done.
Sixteen airports currently operate successfully under the federal-private model. More airports have submitted applications, and others are considering opting out.
While TSA has argued the federal-private model costs more, the agency did not properly account for private-sector cost efficiencies, federal retirement costs, taxes paid by private companies, at least partial elimination of a huge bureaucracy and more.
TSA has grown from a pre-9/11 force of 16,500 screeners, that then lacked proper federal regulation or oversight, into a massive, growing force of 62,000. TSA's bureaucracy includes more than 3,500 administrative personnel in Washington and 7,000 supervisory employees throughout the nation.
It would be far better for a streamlined TSA to focus on setting and checking security standards and auditing performance, rather than spending much of its time, resources and energy on managing a huge ballooning bureaucracy.