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"No more TSA screeners? Airports again allowed to apply to opt out"
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
No more TSA screeners? Airports again allowed to apply to opt out
Burden falls on airports to demonstrate, 'a clear and substantial advantage'
By Harriet Baskas
The Transportation Security Administration has revised the application
process for a program that allows airports to opt out of the federal
screening program and instead apply to have private companies in charge of
the security checkpoint.
But a stipulation in the new application guidelines announced earlier this
month is raising some concern.
As part of the Screening Partnership Program, private companies under
federal oversight currently staff the checkpoints at San Francisco
International, Kansas City International, Greater Rochester International
and 13 other airports around the country.
But in January of this year, TSA administrator John Pistole put the program
on hold, effectively denying the applications of six airports seeking to
join, stating that the agency had not seen "clear or substantial advantage"
to expanding the program.
Since then, "TSA has developed a new ... application process that provides
an opportunity for airport directors and managers to discuss what they see
as the potential advantages that private screening would provide at their
airports," the agency said in a statement.
But wording in the revised application specifically asks airports to explain
how private screening would provide "a clear and substantial advantage to
TSA's security operations."
What TSA views as an "opportunity" is being viewed as a potential hurdle by
"That stipulation is not contained in the legislation mandating the creation
of the program," said Christopher Bidwell, vice president, Security and
Facilitation for Airports Council International - North America (ACI-NA),
which represents the nation's airports. "And TSA has yet to publish the new
standards that identify the criteria."
For its part, TSA maintains that while the mandating legislation allows
airports to request participation in the Screening Partnership Program, it's
ultimately up to the TSA to decide how to implement that program. And, "As
Mr. Pistole announced, he will not expand the program unless there is a
clear advantage to do so," said TSA spokesperson Carrie Harmon.
Six airports have been invited to re-apply for the program, including:
Glacier Park International Airport, Missoula International Airport,
Yellowstone Airport and Bert Mooney Airport in Montana; Springfield-Branson
Airport in Missouri; and Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida.
Additional airports may apply for the program as well.
"I don't know how to make a business case for the TSA when we don't have
access to information the TSA would have when making a contract with a
successful bidder," said Cindi Martin, director of Glacier International
Airport. "It's an impossibility."
Rather than start over, Martin is asking TSA to allow her airport to amend
the application previously filed. Other airports are doing the same. And
ACI-NA is pressing TSA to publish the standards so that airports will have a
better idea of "what items to include in order to help ensure the success of
their application," said Bidwell.
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