TSA Cooked The Books For Years On
Costs, Federal Vs Private Screening
March 14, 2011 - The U.S. Government Accountability
Office (GAO) released a letter to Transportation
Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) that confirms the
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has used
faulty data and withheld information when evaluating and
comparing the costs of the all-federal screening model
and an alternative federal-private screening program.
The Screening Partnership Program was established in the
Aviation Transportation Security Act (ATSA) after
September 11, 2001, to enable airport authorities to
“opt-out” of all-federal screening and instead use
private screening contractors under federal standards,
supervision and oversight. Previously, TSA has
misleadingly claimed that the cost of the privatized
screening program is at least 17 percent higher than the
cost of using screeners who are TSA employees.
“In essence, TSA cooked the books to try to eliminate the federal-private screening program,” Mica said. “GAO found that TSA ignored critical data relating to costs. In fact, according to TSA’s own revised cost study, the cost differential between the two screening models is closer to three percent, likely within the margin of error,” Mica said.
still doesn’t account for various other ignored factors,
including the cost taxpayers incur from TSA’s high attrition
rate and the full cost of TSA’s bloated and unnecessary
only accounted for a fraction of their personnel located at
privatized airports, which result in duplicative costs that
still have not been factored into estimates. Mica also said the
federal-private screening model, through previous GAO
evaluations, has performed significantly better than or equal to
the all-government model.
Additional unaccounted-for TSA costs are incurred each time the costly National Deployment Force, TSA’s mobile screening unit, is used to fill staffing gaps at airports. TSA cannot keep employees at some locations, so expensive screening personnel are deployed to fill in.
This unit was
first created to help TSA federalize aviation security for passenger
screening in 2002. The mobile screening unit is staffed by TSA screeners
and is now responsible for supporting airports during special
circumstances such as seasonal demands and emergencies. Each time the
unit is deployed TSA must pay costs related to per diem lodging and
meals, travel to and from the airport in need, as well as other
screening unit is grossly misused today, mostly filling staffing gaps
caused by low attendance and high attrition,” Mica continued.
“Incredibly, of the five airports that were recently denied their
applications to the federal-private screening model, at least three were
staffed by the mobile screening unit either permanently or for months at
a time. With our limited security resources, it is simply irresponsible
to pass these costs on to taxpayers when there is a viable, more
On January 28th,
TSA Administrator Pistole denied the pending contract screening program
requests of five airports and announced a hold on expanding the program
beyond the current 16 airports, stating that there was not “any clear or
substantial advantage to do so at this time.”
Among the reasons
cited by airports to justify participation in the federal-private
screening model are poor customer service from TSA, poor flexibility and
scheduling of TSA screeners resulting in long lines during peak times,
unnecessarily high cost structures incurred by TSA because of the use of
the mobile screening unit, and the ability to lower costs for the
“The investigative staff of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will continue to review TSA’s distortion and misstatement of facts used in the denial of each of these five airports’ participation in the federal-private screening program. There will also be a thorough examination of the metrics, if any, the TSA used to determine if a ‘clear or substantial advantage’ existed and what the implications are for the future,” Mica said.
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