The United States Government, like all organizations with operational expenses, is seeking to reduce its costs while creating a more effective workflow. As the Government seeks to reduce its debt, trim excess spending and bring its operational costs down, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would appear among the most resistant to change.
While the TSA is among the youngest of Federal Agencies, its costs since its inception in November 2001 have spiraled out of control in an effort to be a security show piece, at times at the expense of true operational superiority. An area in which the TSA has been most resistant is the privatization of airport passenger screening and cargo screening through the Screening Partnership Program (SPP).
Recent reports from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure show a tangible financial and operational divide between airport security carried out the TSA and airports with privatized security. While previous US Government Accountability Office reports show significant cost savings to privatized security, and Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s Office reports have shown higher banned item detection rates than their federalized counterparts, the newer figures, comparing airports of relatively equal size and operating cost structures put federalized security in a different light that is easier to understand on a passenger level.
According to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure the cost per passenger screening at San Francisco International Airport, where passenger screening is privatized, is US$2.42, where as the costs per passenger screening at the comparable Los Angeles International Airport, where the TSA handles passenger screening, is US$4.22.
Overall random tests of security at airports in the United States with privatized security show screeners to be as much as 65% more efficient than their counterparts in the TSA. The efficiency calculation is based not only on the ability to detect banned items passing through screening, but also the number of passengers screened, as well as privatized screeners receiving fewer passenger complaints than their federal counterparts.
With the Transportation Security Administration having spent more then US$2,000,000,000 on the recruiting and training of Transportation Security Officers (TSO) since it entered U.S. airports on the 12th of February 2002, the agency needs to create a more effective agency. The TSA has all the resources at its disposal to create a more effective security environment at a greatly reduced cost, as well as the legal obligation to allow airports to seek out privatized security, as dictated by Public Law 107-71, the same law that created the TSA.
If the TSA reviewed PL 107-71, § 44920. Security screening opt-out program, they may find a healthy balance between a federalized and privatized airport security partnership, benefiting aviation security, the traveling public at a greatly reduced cost the United States Government.