Congress to force private screeners on the TSA

When the TSA assumed responsibility for screening passengers at airports one of the provisions in the law allowed for private screeners to be used rather than federal employees, should a company choose to bid on the contract to operate such. There are a few airports where private screeners are working – San Francisco is the largest – but overall the number of locations with private screeners is incredibly small. This is, in large part, because the TSA has made it clear they don’t want anyone who they do not directly control working at the checkpoints.

Apparently Congress has decided that they’ve had enough. After issuing a rather scathing report in November 2011 on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the TSA a few have now stepped up to actually act on the recommendations made in that report. One of those recommendations was that the TSA stop stonewalling private screener contract applications. Not surprisingly, the TSA ignored it. And now they are running out of chances.

The new legislation will reverse the burden of proof, requiring that the TSA demonstrate increased costs and decreased efficacy in order to reject contract applications. Given the incredibly high turnover rates and training costs that the TSA incurs, it shouldn’t be too hard for contractors to demonstrate that they can meet those standards. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that things will get better with the screening process. After all, the private screeners will still have to follow TSA-mandated policies and the ludicrous “state your name” test started at SFO which is privately run. Still, there is a small chance that private contractors will be able to better manage their workforce, resulting in screeners who bring guns to the office or get caught on camera stealing form customers actually being fired and prosecuted rather than sheltered by the federal government.

And, yes, I know that much of the reason the provisions were pushed through was to benefit the constituents in Representative Mica’s (R-FL) district, but I’m willing to put up with that for the sake of maybe getting a bit better service for the billions spent. Maybe.

A guy can dream…Here’s hoping.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. After seeing a CNN story about a JFK based screener stealing $5000.00 from a passenger’s coat, it is difficult for me to sympathize with TSA.

    My guess is a private contractor may do a better job of screening appicants.

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