Politics

John Mica Turns Up Heat on TSA for Airport 'Opt Out'

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 13, 2012 11:06 AM
TSA Screening
U.S. Rep. John Mica turned up the heat on the Transportation Security Administration Tuesday, prodding the agency to allow more airports to privatize their screening operations.

Speaking at Orlando-Sanford International Airport, whose "opt-out" application was denied by the TSA last year, Mica said the federal agency "attempted to shut down this cost-effective and more efficient screening model for airports."

Sixteen airports operate under the Screening Partnership Program, and others are interested in doing so, but Mica said the TSA has dragged its feet.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, states that the TSA "shall approve" opt-out applications when newly enacted standards are met. This puts the burden of proof on the agency to establish legitimate reasons why any airport’s request should be denied.  

Mica, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said the law establishes "clear standards by which opt-out applications must be fairly and equitably measured, allows airports greater input regarding the preferred security vendor, requires a timely review of applications by the TSA, and requires that the TSA provide transparency and constructive feedback to the airports and Congress regarding each application and the basis for any decision made."

It's not a new issue for Mica, who has been feuding with the TSA for more than a year.,

In a letter sent to TSA Administrator Joe Pistole on Tuesday, the Orlando Republican stated:

"It is important that TSA take steps to immediately reopen the SPP, reissue guidelines in compliance with the law, and begin the process of converting the screening program from its current model to the SPP operations."

Mica asked Pistole to provide his committee with a "timetable and outline to achieve this transition."

The letter was co-signed by Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.

A report released by the Transportation Committee in 2011 found the opt-out program to be 65 percent more efficient than TSA-run operations and would cut taxpayer costs by 42 percent. If the nation’s top 35 airports opted out, taxpayers would save $1 billion over five years, the study found.

Appearing with Orlando-Sanford Airport President Larry Dale on Tuesday, Mica said the 2012 law "establishes clear criteria for TSA when considering opt-out applications, requires the agency to reconsider applications it baselessly denied, and ensures the right of Orlando Sanford and all airports to select this better private-federal screening model to save hard-earned taxpayers’ money."

“The private sector can always perform more effectively and efficiently than the federal government, and Congress intended airports to have the option between all-TSA screening and private-federal screening. However, TSA attempted to thwart the opt-out program Congress established in 2001 when it created the TSA," the congressman charged.

Mica went on to call the TSA "a bloated bureaucracy of more than 65,000 federal workers with a track record of security blunders and failures."

“This agency has lost its way and has strayed from its security mission. It is top-heavy with 9,656 administrators in the field and 3,986 headquarters staff in Washington, D.C., making an average of $103,852 per year.

"This agency must get out of the personnel business and into the security business," he concluded.

In a response issued Tuesday evening, the TSA stated:

"Administrator Pistole is committed to ensuring that TSA is a counter-terrorism agency that provides the most effective security, in the most efficient manner possible.

"Currently, 16 airports are participating in the Screening Partnership Program. An application from a 17th airport, West Yellowstone in Montana, was approved in January and TSA is moving forward with the contracting process."

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (8)

Randy
10:10PM APR 8TH 2012
The people making the $100,000.00 plus salaries are not the blue shirted people you see at the airport. The average TSA employee makes in the neighborhood od $30,000.00 to $50,000.00. The private companies DO NOT pay at the same rate the Govt. does. They pay less per hour and DO NOT pay shift differential but collect the same from TSA (taxpayers) and pocket the difference. All TSA employees hold or in the process of obtaining security clearances. Many of the people who seem to make the news are being weeded out. The private companies Mr. Mica will get paid to promote WILL NOT spend the money for the background checks. Going back to pre 9/11 security gains us nothing.
Bea
9:18AM MAR 14TH 2012
"Privatizing" will not change a thing -- this is just another of government's scams. The "private" companies will still be under the TSA's thumb, fondling your children and giving you cancer with their scanners. Passengers won't see any difference at all. And that's the whole point: this stupid legislation makes Chaffetz, Mica, Issa and any other bozos who sign onto it look like heroes saving us from the TSA when in reality they are in cahoots with these sociopaths.
ABOLISH THE TSA. That's the only answer.
will rose
3:24AM MAR 14TH 2012
I would be the first to say there are many reforms needed for TSA. I
just don't agree with how you want to do it? It doesn't seem logical and
it looks like pandering to special interest groups that are your
constitutes. In the Mica proposal, how could there be a billion dollar
savings? These privatized employees are supposedly paid the same as the
Federal Employees already in place. They are also supposed to get the
same benefits. The corporation that the privatized employees work for
bills the Federal Government for expenses incurred. Where are the
savings to the taxpaying public? This is a shell game you are proposing
with no benefit to the taxpaying public. This is the public you are
sworn to protect and act in their best interest. How does your
corporation make a profit if all they do is bill the government? How
much more do they bill for a profit? I admire the concept of
corporations like Halliburton, Lockheed-Martin, etc, but they are not
known for taking on an interests for the public good. What is in it for
them? How will they make their profit, how will they justify not making
a profit to their share holders? TSA reform has to start at the top with
Congress. I don't think the employees checking bags in the blue shirts
are making the surprisingly high salaries you mention. Those would be
bureaucrats and political appointments that congress has control over.
TSA was originally designed with significant input and influence of
major corporations. Currently isn't the bulk of TSA overhead and
support, corporations? Corporate, free market Research-Development are
the equipment design innovators, not the Federal Government. Where is
that innovation in that market? Remember what NC Pearson's corporate
efficiency cost the TAXPAYER rolling out TSA. That was such a
catastrophic failure, they don't even mention their participation in the
corporate website. Who awarded that one?
KK4
1:04AM MAR 14TH 2012
Eight of the sixteen airports in this program are Essential Air Service airports carrying very few passengers on subsidized flights. If Mica wanted to save the government money, why has he exempted these airports from cuts to the Essential Air Service program (in the same bill he's bragging about)?
Frank
7:00PM MAR 13TH 2012
Oh yes - let's make airports privitized like some current private prisons in the state, where regulators showed up at a prison gate for an inspection (WITH advance pre-notice) with no one answering the gate phone, period (i.e. they had to leave and come back later because they couldn't reach anyone in the prison). Yes, let's do THAT with privitzation of our airport security gates. Can we execute the proponents of this proposal the first time their privitization push let's a terriorist on board? Cost effective shouldn't become a substitute for good terriorism checking. Let me know which airports choose this option to be "cost-effective", so those of us who still fly can abandon those airports.
Fisher1949
6:33PM MAR 13TH 2012
Pistole has lied so often and to so many people he may no longer recognize the truth. The private screeners WILL save taxpayers money because of their pay scale and benefits package will be more commensurate to the job. A job screening passengers should not cost taxpayers $100K/year. Private firms handle screening in many US airports already including Kansas City.

Also, the 9/11 Commission concluded that the private screeners were not responsible. The FBI withheld information about the attackers from the airlines which led to the formation of TSA.

Pistole has mindlessly defended TSA worker’s abuse of passengers no matter how egregious these get. He has defended them despite acts of racism, sexism, crimes, strip searches and other misconduct.

There were 62 TSA workers arrested in 2011 for serious crimes including 11 for child sex crimes and Pistole defended them.

So far this year six have been arrested including one Air Marshall and he defends them.

What will it take for Pistole to admit that this agency is a complete failure? He should be indicted for criminal malfeasance in running this agency and TSA replaced.

TSA Crimes & Abuses
bit.ly/TravelUndergroundTSAabuses
Sara Goodman
5:31PM MAR 13TH 2012
Interesting since Mr. Mica has claimed that he created the TSA after 9-11. Here is a quote from transportation.house.gov:
As the Aviation Subcommittee Chairman at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mica is credited with helping bring America’s devastated aviation industry back from the brink of economic disaster. He also coauthored the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001.

He personally, in other articles, has even been so bold as to claim that he "invented" the TSA. So now that he is running for re-election in a new district where only a small portion was in his previous district, he wants to get attention with all of the Seminole County Political Yuck-Yucks. Since most travelers abhor TSA, it's interesting that he wants to play to them to get votes. Cody's comment is right on track, Mica will profit from it, as well as the Wekiva Parkway (417 Extension). He, along with Dorworth and Jim Stelling and all of their cronies stand to make a lot of money from the construction....and no wonder they are all in the construction business. There aren't any of "Seminole Mafia" that aren't in for it for themselves.
That's why we need to keep Sandy Adams in her congressional seat. She is not one of them. Word was that Mica was going to retire, so why do you think he decided to run in this district, as opposed to the coast (District 6)where he has more constituents? Because his money base is here and he is saving the congressional seat for someone....my bet is it is Dorworth or Cannon. Since Dorworth is more corrupt, odds on bet is it is for him!
cody brown
1:10PM MAR 13TH 2012
Folks wake up! Mr. Mica will benefit from this move, not you or I.....going back to the way it was before 9-11 is not what I want. Check it out folks. TSA oversight will be there so there'll be no savings found, only a benefit for him. This will cost us more money. And do you think these contractors will not cut corners to make money?! Give it up Mica, do your job and concentrate on more important issues sir.

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