Legislation has recently been introduced that would reform the Transportation Security Administration’s Screening Partnership Program, the program that allows airports to use private security screeners.
The Screening Partnership Reform Act (S. 3441) was introduced by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) as a way to enhance the accuracy of the TSA’s cost estimation process behind the Screening Partnership Program.
Lee said in a recent article that airports who choose to work with a private security contractor can reduce costs up to 11% without compromising passenger safety. However, only 22 airports around the country have opted into the program, largely because of what he called “bureaucratic red tape that comes with the TSA being judge, jury, and executioner in all aspects of contractor selection.”
He said his bill will simplify the application process for private companies to utilize the Screening Partnership Program by more accurately looking at the costs involved with how the TSA evaluates prospective security contractors.
One of these costs not currently taken into consideration by the TSA is the cost of providing benefits to the federal employees who do the work: its screeners.
“As it stands, the TSA does not currently include the cost of benefits guaranteed to federal employees, which could account for as much as 10 percent of the total amount the TSA pays its employees for these services. This bill would change that,” wrote Lee in his article.
He also pointed out the TSA hasn’t exactly performed well in detecting threats, noting, for example, that the agency failed to detect threats 95% of the time in one undercover investigation. He says the legislation would improve the security process by allowing private screening companies to annually submit recommendations on how to improve the screening processes and would also empower airports to make the decision whether to go with a TSA contract or a TSA-approved private screening company.
“While the Screening Partnership program has existed for almost 20 years, only 22 airports participate in the program, despite its safety record and cost-effectiveness,” Lee said in a statement. “This bill would clear some of the bureaucratic red-tape surrounding this program in an attempt to unleash the potential cost-saving benefits of these private screening contractors, while also simplifying the application process and improving the efficiency of our screenings. Simply put – this bill would save American’s money and make them safer.”