Airports across America may see an increase in private security screening under a new law authored by Congressman John Mica (R-FL) and recently signed into law which ensures that airports can continue to opt out of all federal security screening.
Mica included a provision in federal aviation legislation that was signed into law in February that protects and strengthens the right of airports to select a private security screening model in which certified private operators provide screening under federal standards and oversight instead of using the TSA.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 states that the TSA shall approve opt-out applications if the newly-enacted standards are met, putting the burden of proof on the agency to establish legitimate reasons why any airport’s request should be denied. The law establishes clear standards by which opt-out applications must be fairly and equitably measured, allows airports greater input regarding the preferred security vendor, requires a timely review of applications by the TSA, requires that the TSA provide transparency and constructive feedback to the airports and Congress regarding each application and the basis for any decision made.
According to Mica, “TSA attempted to shut down this cost-effective and more efficient screening model for airports. The private sector almost always performs more effectively and efficiently than the federal government, and Congress intended airports to have the option between all-TSA screening and private-federal screening. However TSA attempted to thwart the opt-out program established by Congress when it created the agency in 2001.”
Mica is referring to the TSA’s denial of private screening requests from six airports last year as well as a report released in 2011 by the House Transportation Committee which found the opt-out program to be 65% more efficient than the government’s screening process and would increase taxpayer savings by at least 42%.
The new aviation law also requires any airports’ opt-out applications previously denied by the TSA to be reconsidered under the new criteria, if the airport requests reconsideration.
Mica was at the Orlando Sanford airport this week to announce the new provisions since the Orlando airport is one which has made a renewed request under his legislation to go to the private screening model (Orlando’s previous request was denied by the TSA last year).
In touting the new law, Mica criticized the TSA and also made it clear that the agency needs to play nice with him and the rest of Congress in enforcing this new law. “TSA is a bloated bureaucracy of more than 65,000 federal workers with a track record of security blunders and failures. Ensuring that TSA can no longer arbitrarily deny airport requests to opt out is a critical reform. This agency must get out of the personnel business and into the security business. I have written to TSA Administrator Pistole citing his recent testimony to ‘absolutely’ work with Congress to improve the opt-out program through the implementation of this new law. I look forward to working with the Administrator and airports to ensure the availability of the best screening model possible for Americans traveling by air,” said Mica.
There are currently 16 airports operating under the opt-out program and others are reportedly interested. Stated benefits of the private program include greater screening efficiencies and innovation, improved cost effectiveness, better customer service, improved employee morale, and greater flexibility for airports.