TSA extends some private airport screening contracts by eight months

By: Jacob Goodwin

Rather than award new contracts to private security screening companies at six U.S. airports, on schedule, TSA issued a notice on August 11 indicating that it planned to extend its existing contracts with the five incumbent companies for “eight months of bridge effort until the competitive requirement is awarded.”

It was not immediately clear if TSA simply needs more time to evaluate the various proposals from prospective vendors, or if it is contemplating any changes to its Screening Partnership Program.

Shortly after 9/11, TSA began implementing a two-pronged approach to airport screening, with the vast majority of screening handled by federal employees, and a pilot program launched at five U.S. airports where the screening duties would be carried out by commercial companies. That pilot program was deemed successful and the total number of airports where commercial screening takes place has grown to 17.

Gary Smedile, director of business development for FirstLine Transportation Security, Inc., of Cleveland, OH, which is the incumbent screening company at Kansas City International Airport, told GSN on August 13 that the eight-month delay might be of little significance. “TSA is giving itself some more time to make its decisions regarding the awards,” said Smedile. “The last time we were awarded a contract, there was also a bridge contract, so this isn’t unprecedented.”

TSA announced it was adding eight months to the existing contracts with FirstLine; Trinity Technology Group, of Fairfax, VA; Covenant Aviation Security, of Bolingbrook, IL; Jackson Hole Airport Board, of Jackson Hole, WY; and McNeil Security, Inc., of Springfield, VA.

“The bridge effort is for the continuation of services for security screening services by staffing passenger, baggage, and aviation direct access checkpoints with approved, fully-trained personnel,” explained TSA’s notice.

The Screening Partnership Program contracts that are being extended by eight months are in effect at San Francisco International Airport; Kansas City International Airport; Greater Rochester International Airport; Jackson Hole Airport, in Wyoming; Tupelo Regional Airport, in Mississippi; and Sioux Falls Regional Airport, in South Dakota.

In response to GSN’s inquiry, Michael McCarthy, a TSA public affairs spokesman provided the following statement on August 13:

"The contract extension will be put in place as a safeguard for continuing operations,” wrote McCarthy. “Whenever a contract is about to expire and there is a risk of not having required services performed, we typically extend the existing contractor to ensure we continue to receive those required services and to allow for a reasonable transition.”

“TSA is currently re-competing most of the SPP contracts,” McCartthy added, before identifying eight specific airports:

- San Francisco International (SFO)
- Kansas City International (MCI)
- Greater Rochester International (ROC)
- Key West International (EYW)
- Jackson Hole (JAC)
- Joe Foss Field (FSD)
- Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County (STS)
- Tupelo Municipal (TUP)

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