Federal Times Blogs

Should TSA use private screeners?

Bookmark and Share

The Government Accountability Office is warning the Transportation Security Administration that the agency’s 2007 study on the efficiency and effectiveness of private screeners doesn’t tell the whole story.

In 2007, TSA studied the cost, wait time in security lines, customer satisfaction, threat detection capabilities and recertification test passage rates of private security screeners at six of the nation’s airports and compared the results to federal screeners.

A newly released GAO report reviews a TSA assessment of cost savings and performance of private screeners and found the agency didn’t account for all costs in its study, which found private screeners were equal to or better than federal screeners in terms of cost and performance.

Among the costs TSA didn’t account for:

  • overlapping administrative staffs in the cost of airports participating in the Screening Partnership Program, which allows private-sector screeners to screen luggage at six commercial airports. 
  • lost tax revenues when private screeners were converted to federal screeners.

TSA also did not conduct a statistical assessment of the reliability of the data used in the report, which was conducted by a contractor in 2007.

Tags: ,


  1. TSA and the Constitution - Page 7 - FlyerTalk Forums Says:
    February 10th, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    [...] Originally Posted by law dawg I would agree with you 100% except for the fact that only people traveling (as far as I know) on civilian air carriers are screened for dangerous items. Why is that? Why is someone traveling on plane with a gun more dangerous than someone traveling on a bus or train or boat? Why is the public safety need so much greater on a plane? I’m asking here. I assumed (and yes, I know what happens when you assume ) that it was due to national airspace. It’s the only thing that made sense to me. And, if that’s true, then that would explain a lot of other rationale for many of the things TSA does. Apparently this is not correct. Apparently airspace has zip to do with anything. So that leaves me back at the start – the G has to have a rationale that passes some sort of Constitutional muster to be able to do what it wants. Sometime, somewhere there had to be a reason given for why the government can enact stricter measures for civilian aviation than for other public conveyances. So, begging the question, what is it? Anyone? Bueller? The reason why screenings were first enacted was an attempt to prevent hijackings. Most passengers did not mind the extra intrusion if it saved a trip to some third world hole. The screenings were done by either a private company or the airline personnel. If you had a problem with a screener you had recourse with the company that hired them. All in all a pretty good system. After 9/11 the claim of a secure airspace was tossed in to justify the enormous amounts of money being thrown into the freshly minted DHS and TSA. Sad fact is the TSO do as good or worse than the private screeners. [...]

  2. just me Says:
    February 11th, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    the assessment was done most likely with about 6 or so airports using private screeners however a few things were not taken into account it seems……like if they all went private again who controls what… seems like a co-employment issue that could result in massive legal costs . tsa screeners cannot join a union private ones can.. i don’t know of any private contractor taking over a governmental function that might pay equal or more my prediction is the screeners will be unionized within a year or two of going private to regain their pay and benefit status….