With airport security insanity gracing the front pages of most news publications, Florida Republican Rep. John Mica is using the budding outrage at the federal Transportation Security Administration to remind airlines that they have the ability to forgo the government’s security system and instead use private contractors.
Though Mica is riding the wave of outrage to gain support for privatization, even if airlines opt for privatization, screeners will still be required to perform the current, invasive security procedures.
Prior to TSA’s establishment in 2001, airlines used private security companies to screen passengers. While post-9/11 legislation gave TSA control of the screening process, the law allowed for five airports to retain private screening capacities as part of a pilot program. Two years later the program expanded to allow individual airports that apply and be accepted into the TSA’s Screening Partnership Program (SPP) to have private contractors perform their screening operations.
Currently, there are 17 airports participating in the program out of more than 450 airports.
Justin Harclerode, communications director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republicans, explained that Mica’s letter was meant to remind airports of their ability to contract their security screening to private companies.
“There are some instances where airports just don’t realize that is an option and is one of the reasons Mr. Mica sent letters out to a number of airports making sure they were aware this was an option,” Harclerode said.
Mica did not mince words in the letter he sent out to more than 150 airports, noting that TSA has become a “huge, unwieldy bureaucracy” with more than 67,000 employees.
“Past studies have indicated that private screening operations’ performance is equal to, or ‘statistically significantly better than’ all-federal operations. Furthermore, almost all of the positive innovations that have been adopted by the TSA in the screening process have emanated from private screening operations,” Mica wrote. He continued, “It is both inappropriate and inefficient for the TSA to serve as the administrator, quality assurance regulator, operator, and auditor of its own activities.”
The Kansas City International Airport is one airport that has opted out of TSA screening and instead contract the job out to First Line Transportation Securities. Ian Redhead, deputy director of operations and maintenance at the KCI, told The Daily Caller that KCI’s private security company was efficient and accountable.
“They have less red tape or restrictions in how they use their people,” Redhead said. He continued, “They have to comply with rules, but because they are a private company, and they were used to doing this and managing people, they [are] probably more efficient at doing it.”
Regardless of who screens the passengers, however, screeners will use the same methods, explained TSA spokesman Greg Soule.
“All commercial airports are regulated by TSA whether the actual screening is performed by TSA officers or private companies. TSA sets the security standards that must be followed and includes the use of enhanced pat downs and imaging technology, if installed at the airport,” Soule wrote to TheDC in an e-mail.