Private Airport Screening a Viable Option for U.S. Airports
In a recent St. Louis Business Journal article concerning the woeful performance of the TSA, the author claimed that privatization cannot be an answer to security screening in U.S. airports, like Lambert-St. Louis International. According to the author, “It doesn’t work. It never has.”
This statement is simply not true. In fact, Kansas City International Airport (MCI) has contracted for private screening through the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) for more than a decade. Under that program, the TSA sets standards for screening and selects a qualified vendor. Even compensation must match TSA standards. Kansas City is not an anomaly. In total, 21 airports, including San Francisco International Airport, use private screening.
The main reason airports opt for private screening is price. According to a report by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, an airport like LAX (which uses TSA) could cut security costs by more than 40 percent if it moved to private screening. That more airports do not use private screening is largely the fault of the TSA itself, which the Government Accountability Office has consistently criticized for dragging its feet on improving and expanding SPP.
From a security standpoint, multiple studies show that private screeners do as good, or better, jobs than TSA screeners. And while we are now learning this is no high hurdle, at least a private company can lose its contract for bad performance; the same cannot be said of the TSA.
As an airport screening agency, the TSA is failing the flying public. In Saint Louis and elsewhere, perhaps it is time airport screening was privately bid out and the TSA receded to a regulatory role.