WASHINGTON – Airport passenger screening with private security screeners under federal supervision is dramatically more efficient and less costly than the all-federal screening model, according to a Transportation Committee investigative report issued on Friday.
The report, entitled TSA Ignores More Cost-Effective Screening Model, compares costs for the two passenger screening models.
A private-federal screening option, known as the Screening Partnership Program (SPP), was established in the Aviation Transportation Security Act (ATSA) after September 11, 2001.
This program enabled airports to “opt out” and request the use of private screening contractors under federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) standards, supervision and oversight.
Beginning in 2002, five airports operated under the private-federal screening model. That number has increased to 16, with many other airports requesting to utilize this option.
“In January, TSA concocted a decision to pull the plug on allowing more airports to opt out, despite the law and Congress’ intent that airports have the legal right to utilize the private-federal screening model,” said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Mica said, “This comprehensive report clearly debunks TSA’s position and efforts to undermine this cost-effective program.”
He added, “The report clearly demonstrates that screening under the private-federal model is dramatically more cost-effective compared to screening conducted by TSA.”
Mica said, “If the nation’s top 35 airports opted out, we could save taxpayers $1 billion over the next five years.”
He charged the TSA with distorting numbers.
“The facts speak for themselves,” Mica continued. “TSA cooked the books when conducting past cost comparisons of the two models, misleading Congress and the public by artificially inflating the costs to use private contract screeners. As our report reveals, when considering critical information previously ignored by TSA, the private-federal option is actually 65 percent more efficient and would increase taxpayer savings by at least 42 percent.”
Mica explained that committee staff members investigated screening operations “at two large, comparable West Coast airports: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where screening is conducted by TSA, and at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which utilizes the private-federal model.”
SFO is the largest U.S. airport in the private-federal screening program.
“If LAX were to opt out, it would save taxpayers at least $38.6 million annually, despite prior TSA claims that the private-federal program costs more,” Mica claimed.
“With 63,000 employees, TSA has become a bloated bureaucracy that is too focused on managing its personnel and protecting its turf. The U.S. is one of the only governments in the world that functions as the airport security operator, administrator regulator and auditor. This agency must get out of the human resources business. TSA must be reformed and restructured to become a more effective regulator of transportation security,” Mica said.