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Improving Airport Passenger Screening

NCJ Number
Robert W Poole Jr.
Date Published
September 2002
33 pages
This document discusses the improvement of airport passenger screening and the difficulty in recruiting and training screening personnel.
The Aviation and Transportation Security Act calls for the Federal Government to provide passenger and baggage screening at all but 5 of the Nation’s 429 commercial-service airports as of November 19, 2002. The other five will opt out of direct Federal passenger screening by hiring a qualified private security firm for this purpose. After a 2-year period of direct Federal provision, all other airports will then be allowed to opt out by choosing a government-certified security firm instead. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is having difficulty in recruiting and training enough screening personnel to meet the November 19th deadline. A significant expansion of the opt-out pilot program is needed because a sample size of 1 percent of the Nation’s airports is meaningless, and expanding the pilot program would be a major help to the TSA. There are a number of reasons why airport directors want to opt out of TSA-provided screening, such as increasing the quality of airport screening and having a more uniform, less-fragmented security system. Congress has an opportunity to address these problems in easing the TSA’s immediate hiring and training burden by increasing the number of opt-out airports to 40+ to provide for an adequate sample size, and extending the deadline for both federalized and new contracted screening workforces from November 19 to December 31, 2002. Other short-term fine tuning includes having the TSA encourage large and medium hubs to apply; extending the scope to baggage screening; letting airport operators be the contracting party to hire and supervise qualified contractors; and permitting foreign ownership of qualified screening companies. According to European experience, the best results are achieved via a unified approach, under which the airport director has day-to-day control over the provision of all security services. The airport’s security system interfaces with various law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as appropriate. 3 tables, 18 endnotes, appendix