Lawmaker presses TSA to use private screeners to cut wait times


Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) is demanding answers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) about recent spikes in airport wait times and urging the agency to use more private screeners.

In a letter to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger on Wednesday, Black questioned why the agency has not awarded more contracts to private businesses through its screening partnership program to tackle the massive security lines that have resulted from recent reductions in staff.

{mosads}The screening partnership program allows private companies to run screening operations under federal oversight, and they must comply with all TSA procedures.

Only 22 of 450 commercial airports have been awarded private contracts under the program.

“My question is: why?” Black said. “Congress must ensure that TSA culture and policies aren’t standing in the way of allowing businesses the ability to compete for these opportunities.”

The letter specifically asks how many companies have applied for a contract; how many airports have submitted an application for private screeners; whether TSA is considering improving its partnership program due to the increased wait times; and what the turnover rate among employees at the agency has been over the past five years.

Black also raised concern that TSA has not seriously revised its methodology for better estimating the costs associated with private contracts, as recommended by the Government Accountability Office in November 2015.

“Congress can’t keep throwing taxpayer money at a broken agency that, by every metric, is failing our travelers, without demanding reform,” Black said.

“As Americans face wait times in excess of 90 minutes just to board their planes, expanding and reforming the TSA’s screening partnership program offers a potential remedy to this travel nightmare.”

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