Recently it has come to light that G4S security, which provides security at a number of airports in the United Kingdom, including Britain’s global gateway, London’s Heathrow Airport, had only vetted and trained approximately 4,000 security guards for the Olympics, rather than then 10,400 they were contracted to provide.
In an effort to ensure security of the Olympics G4S has begun shuffling its staff around, which reduces staffing levels at certain airports. To ensure the airports remain operating at full capacity during this time the British reached out to the U.S. State Department for assistance from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for assistance.
The role of the TSA will be focus the prevention of terrorism of flights bound for the United States, working with U.S. airlines and British airlines. How the TSA assets are to be deployed and their effectiveness leaves some question of their effectiveness though.
An interesting quirk in the TSA’s role in working with U.S. and British carriers only means that flights from the U.K. to the U.S. operated by Air New Zealand and Kuwait Airways will not have a TSA presence during this time.
As there are no specific airport checkpoints for flights to the United States, with them spread among all terminals at London’s Heathrow, TSA personnel will not be staffing check points, instead they will be assigned to the specific gates for flights departing to the United States.
What role will the TSA play in the gate areas for flights departing for the United States? Under the U.S. State Department agreement with the United Kingdom, the TSA personnel will not be able to screen passengers or perform inspections.
At this time it is unclear the number of TSA personnel being dispatched to U.K., although they should be spread among a number of airports with direct flights to the United States, and what type of staff are being sent. As of this morning the State Department continues to use the term “Inspector” for TSA personnel headed over to assist, however this seems unlikely due to the limited number of Inspectors and their role within the agency.
Ultimately the question at hand is what is the purpose of State Department agreeing to send Transportation Security Administration personnel to the U.K. to assist in airport security during the Olympics? Will TSA personnel be performing a vital role with an inability to screen passengers or inspect passengers … or is this a political arrangement for the United States to present a wider presence during a global event in a foreign land?