GOP lawmakers press TSA on private airport screenings

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"Airport operators have expressed tremendous interest in the SPP and that expansion beyond the small fraction of the U.S. airports that currently participate in the SPP will allow the TSA to focus on security and oversight activities," they continued. "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 of the SPP operations under federal supervision as directed by H.R. 658."

Mica and other GOP lawmakers have long pushed to privatize some functions of airport security. They have been critical of TSA's screening methods, including X-ray body scanners and pat-down hand searches, and they have also sharply criticized the size of the controversial agency's workforce.

TSA recently allowed a seasonal airport in West Yellowstone, Mont., to participate in its SPP program and opt out of having federal screeners, though the agency still sets standards for private companies who provide airport security to meet.

However, Mica has accused the agency trying to "shut down this cost-effective and more efficient screening model for airports." 

"The private sector almost always performs more effectively and efficiently than the federal government, and Congress intended airports to have the option between all-TSA screening and private-federal screening," he said.  

Mica pointed to TSA rejecting applications for opting out of federal security screening by six airports, though one was West Yellowstone, which has successfully reapplied.