TSA Forces Out the Competition

February 4, 2011

Privacy & Immigration

Last week, the TSA announced it will not allow any more airports to choose to use private screeners instead of the TSA. “I do not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so at this time,” the TSA administrator said.

Federal government unions praised the decision, and took the opportunity to blast special interests.  Ironic.

Who’s afraid of choice and competition?  Obviously TSA.   I suppose that glowing reports out of airports hiring private contractors to do passenger screenings was making the bloated agency feel pressured to do better.  Solution?  Strong arm the innovators.

I fly quite often, and one of my favorite airports is Kansas City International (MCI), which contracts out its security to FirstLine Transportation Security.  FirstLine conforms to TSA’s recruiting and training standards and is under  TSA supervisison, but its employees are not federal employees.

I find its screeners to be well groomed, professional and thorough.  Most noticeably, on my last visit to MCI, there weren’t 5 screeners standing around doing nothing, which is often the case at airports using TSA employees.   Going through DCA a month ago, I listened to several TSA agents talking about lunch plans, and generally not doing anything I would remotely describe as “work”.  As is typical of federal agencies, the TSA gives the appearance that it believes quantity equals quality.

If my experience with MCI and DCA is any indication, the private contractors perform better with less people.  So I can certainly see where TSA might feel threatened.

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