3:25 PM EDT, March 13, 2012
SANFORD — Orlando Sanford International Airport officials have restarted a push to hire private security forces, relying this time on a new law championed by U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park.
Replacing federal Transportation Security Administration workers with contract employees would result in a more "customer friendly" operation, airport president Larry Dale said at a Tuesday news conference.
But he could not say if a switch would result in lower costs because he has not seen any financial proposals from the three companies the airport has on a short list for the work.
Dale originally tried to boot TSA almost two years ago, but the agency rejected his request.
TSA will have a much harder time turning Sanford down this time because Mica inserted a line in a federal aviation law that took effect last month saying the agency "shall" consider opt-out requests from airports rather than "may," as the previous legislation said.
Mica, who wrote the law creating the TSA after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, contends the agency has become a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy with too many managers among its 67,000 employees.
"I want to get it [TSA] out of the human resources business and back to security," Mica said.
Right now, 17 airports have private security, including San Francisco, Kansas City and smaller airports such as Key West and Jackson Hole, Wy.
Orlando International Airport uses TSA and the board of directors have not reviewed Mica's new language, said spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell.
"It is a complicated issue to consider," she said, adding the OIA board does not have the TSA contract on its next meeting agenda.
Even if airports employ private screeners, the TSA would continue to oversee and pay for them.
The reason to change, Mica and Dale contend, is the possibility of reduced cost through a cut in what they consider to be unnecessary management and improved customer service.
"It's the private sector that made this the greatest country in the world," Dale said.
Months likely will pass before TSA considers Sanford's request and, if approved, any changes could be made in the workforce. TSA has about 90 employees in Sanford, an airport official estimated.