Congressman John Mica’s (R-FL) rants about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are nothing new. Rep. Mica, who represents Florida’s 7th Congressional District, was involved in the creation of the TSA and began becoming vocal about the privatization of the agency in 2010, focusing his energy on Orlando Sanford International Airport. Why tiny Orlando Sanford International Airport? Because the airport is within his district, but as they say in game shows … “but that’s not all!”
Some of Rep Mica’s notable comments are accurate, “It’s an agency that is always one step out of step.” Some comments are partially true, such as “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years,” when what he should have said is the agency has not detected a terrorist threat and others, such as his comments earlier this month are just blatantly false, such as “If you come to Orlando airport or Sanford airport, what is going on is almost criminal to American citizens, the way they are treated.”
At each airport the TSA has comment cards passengers are free to fill out and submit back to the agency with feedback about their experience. At some airports the comment cards are overwhelmingly negative, however at Orlando Sanford International Airport the airport has such a small passenger base than only just over 100 comment cards were submitted last year. Of those 100 or so comment cards, only five … let me repeat that FIVE … were negative (not counting one complaint about the odor of a TSA screener). The statistical number of complaints against the TSA at this airport is so small it doesn’t even register. In fact, the vast majority of comments submitted to the TSA by passengers at Orlando Sanford International Airport are glowingly positive in a way that is almost incomparable to other airports. Compliments from mothers traveling alone with children, compliments from frequent business flyers, one gushing comment from a Southwest Airlines pilot deadheading elsewhere that states it was their first time ever submitting a comment card, but they wanted the TSA at the airport commended.
If anything comes out of looking into the TSA’s record at Orlando Sanford International Airport, it is that this airport is model other airports should follow and use as a training model.
To give you an idea of how few passengers actually use Orlando Sanford International Airport annually, an airport with only one ‘regular’ mainline airline operating service, Allegiant, serving second tier cities, largely on a non-daily basis, the top served destination for 2013 was a tie between Allentown, PA and Lexington KY. Both Allentown and Lexington enplaned 36,000 passengers, compared to Orlando International Airport, which enplaned 1,290,000 passengers to Atlanta, and a combined passenger enplanement of 1,777,000 passengers to New York City’s three major airports.
This of course leads to the question of what sparked a fury within Rep. Mica to privatize passenger screening at tiny Orlando Sanford International Airport? A question that has puzzled many for quite some time … and with some digging the answer becomes apparent.
The answer? Lining his own pockets, lining the pockets of corporation, campaign donors and pushing the professional agenda of his daughter.
So where does this all begin? In 2010, when Orlando Sanford International Airport decided it wanted to Opt Out of using the TSA and choose to use the Screening Partnership Program. The Screening Partnership Program is born out of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, Public Law 107-71, under § 44920, “Security screening opt-out program.”
While many airports have explored the Screening Partnership Program, Rep. Mica had multiple personal reasons to take it up as his personal cause, despite the airport’s interest in Opting Out due to local corporate ties, rather than a genuine need.
At the time Orlando Sanford International Airport became interested in the Screening Partnership Program, the person heading up the airport’s Strategic Communications was D’Anne Mica. D’Anne Mica is, as you may guess, the daughter of Rep. John Mica. As a communications contractor representing the airport, D’Anne Mica had a direct financial stake in not only the promotion of privatizing passenger screening at the airport, but in provoking the TSA and stoking the media about it. The more this story grew, the more hours she could bill the Sanford Airport Authority.
A father using his position to help his daughter is nothing new, even though highly unethical for a U.S. Congressman, and a U.S. Congressman who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, with oversight over aspects of the TSA.
Although D’Anne Mica left her ties to Orlando Sanford International Airport behind in 2011, Rep. John Mica had other financial reasons to remain vocal about privatizing the TSA at the airport, ties to Covenant Aviation Security.
Covenant Aviation Security has been the largest private aviation security company in the United States for more than a decade, earning more than an estimated US$700,000,000 from government contracts since 2002. Where is Covenant Aviation Security based? Casselberry, Florida, within Florida’s 7h Congressional District, the district Rep. Mica represents.
Rep. Mica’s ties to Covenant Aviation Security don’t just end with the company being based in his district, the company’s current President, Michael Bolles, who joined the company as a Sr. Vice President of Aviation Security in August 2004, has been a consistent financial contributor to Rep. Mica’s campaigns and Rep Mica’s campaigns have received corporate donations from Covenant Aviation Security.
When people complain about the TSA and airport security, and there are legitimate complaints, and while some airports, such as New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport, are ripe for overhaul, some airports find themselves in the midst of being used as a pawn, and not just a political pawn, but a pawn that helps their elected Representative mislead their constituents, mislead the media and push their own personal agenda … and a personal agenda that benefits their need for power and money more than their need to be fair, honest and serve the people they represent.
The TSA’s Screening Partnership Program should be reopened. Airports should have the ability to “Opt Out” if they can show just cause and provide a viable private contract company … but an airport such as Orlando Sanford International Airport need not Opt Out because it is an example of what other airports should be following, while a Congressman needlessly destroys those TSA Employee’s reputations for his own personal, political and financial gain.
The way to change the Transportation Security Administration for the better is with facts, research and the truth, especially if you are the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, not through misleading statements and yelling just to hear yourself speak during a sound bite.