TSA vs. Private Contractors

07 Jun

Recently, the TSA determined that private security organizations were not as efficient at screening passengers and their baggage at airports as they were. “In January 2011, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief, John Pistole, announced a halt to expansion of the use of private security screeners at US airports explaining that the TSA had found “no clear and substantial advantage” to expand the use of private contractors,” (Leggiere, 2011).

A new report, recently released, rebuts this claim. The story can be found here:

This function, of personnel screening at our nation’s airports, has made TSA perhaps the most hated and maligned Federal entity in recent memory. The IRS will continue to hold that title, however, until somebody flies a plane into TSA headquarters . . .

The screening function should be outsourced to private contractors. Here are a few very obvious points in favor of this model:

Competition encourages innovation. The TSA is an immature, lumbering agency struggling to find its way. I understand they’re facing staffing and training challenges. However, lack of competition stifles innovation. Nobody needs to see a study to agree with this concept. A private security company who competes with rivals for a contract will perform better. Period.

This is an easy job. I don’t care what the TSA union might say – this is an easy job. I did years of sentry duties as a military policeman, inspecting baggage, vehicles and personnel for explosives and other sinister devices. I know it’s easy, all hyperbole aside.

TSA should focus on procedural compliance. This is the proper role for the agency – oversight and quality control. I don’t care whether this is the model TSA administrators envision, or are implementing now – it is the most effective model.

TSA should act as a clearinghouse for aviation threats and intelligence. One critic of the private screening model had this to say, “further privatization could lead to greater inconsistencies in threat identification, intelligence dissemination, and screening operations.  This would greatly threaten TSA’s mission,” (Leggiere, 2011). This is complete nonsense.

–          If TSA took a step backward from the “front lines,” it could efficiently liaison with the various contract companies and provide timely intelligence to those employees actually conducting the screenings at the airports. I realize that would mean each local and regional TSA office would have to maintain effective and constant liaison with the airports within their jurisdiction – would harm could possibly come from that?

–          The employee putting hands-on at the airports (pun intended) needs very basic information about current threats. Sources and methods involved in the collection of this intelligence will never be distributed to these screeners. Distributing tactical, low level intelligence to field hands is not nearly as glamorous or informative as commonly assumed – and this intelligence can be distributed just as easily to private contractors as it is to TSA employees.

The private model is more efficient. We should go with it.


Leggiere, P. (06 June 2011). House Committee Report Disputes TSA Findings On Private Airport Screening. Homeland Security Today.

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Posted by on June 7, 2011 in Security


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