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TSA Says No to Private Airport Screening

January 29, 2011
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TSA chief John Pistole said he has decided not to expand a program that allows airports to replace government screeners with private screeners, saying he does not see any advantage to it.

The Screening Partnership Program allowed 16 airports to replace government screeners with private contractors who wear TSA-like uniforms, meet TSA standards and work under TSA oversight. Among the airports that have "opted out" of government screening are San Francisco and Kansas City.

At one point in time, the TSA said it neither endorsed nor opposed private screening. "If airports chose this route, we are going to work with them to do it," a TSA spokesman said in late December.

But on Friday, the TSA denied an application by Springfield-Branson Airport in Missouri to privatize its checkpoint workforce, and in a statement, Pistole indicated other applications likewise will be denied.

"I examined the contractor screening program and decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports as I do not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so at this time," Pistole said.

He said airports that currently use contractor screening will continue to be allowed to.

Pistole said he has been reviewing TSA policies with the goal of helping the agency "evolve into a more agile, high-performance organization."

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