DHS delivers guidance for Screening Partnership Program

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Plan available for airports considering private security screeners
Local Press Release
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

LAS VEGAS – Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, today released the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) "Guidance on Screening Partnership Program" (SPP). The document provides initial information for airports that may be interested in having private companies provide screeners. This option is available through a provision in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) that grants any airport the opportunity to "opt-out" of having federal passenger and baggage screeners and choose private security service companies to conduct screening operations under TSA management after November 19, 2004.

"TSA is committed to having a transparent process and is partnering with the aviation industry and private vendors to ensure that they are well informed when determining if the Screening Partnership Program is appropriate for them," said Under Secretary Hutchinson.

ATSA required TSA to establish pilot projects at up to five airports, where screening would be performed by employees of private companies under federal oversight. Known as the PP5 airports, TSA entered into contracts in November 2002 for pilot programs at San Francisco, Kansas City, Rochester, N.Y., Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Tupelo, Miss. This successful pilot has demonstrated that security and customer service under the PP5 is comparable to that of airports staffed with federal screeners. TSA has taken many of the lessons learned from this pilot and incorporated them into the SPP.

The SPP states that airports may submit applications to TSA starting on November 19, 2004. TSA is currently developing specific criteria for the airport application process. For airports that are authorized to participate in SPP, TSA plans to conduct a transition of the work force after the selection of private contractors beginning in late spring or summer 2005.

"Professionalism and security will remain our top priority and if airports choose to enter the Screening Partnership Program, the new private sector screeners would have to perform to the high level of standards put in place by TSA following the federalization of screeners after the September 11 terrorist attacks," said Under Secretary Hutchinson.

The guidance does not limit the number of airports that can submit applications. Funding for SPP comes from the same pool as the funding for federal screening operations nationwide. TSA is envisioning a program in which operations at non-federalized airports will be comparable with the federal operations that are being replaced.

TSA is pursuing a program in which screeners (screeners, leads, and supervisors) would be given priority for employment for positions at the contract company. TSA is committed to ensuring a fair and supportive transition program that recognizes the outstanding skills of TSA's current work force. Federal Security Directors (FSDs) and their staffs will continue to be responsible for overseeing all screening operations at SPP airports and for ensuring that contract screening companies provide effective and efficient security operations that comply with federal standards and TSA's Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

TSA plans to solicit proposals from industry to become qualified vendors. Once qualified, companies can bid on contracts to provide screening services at airports that are authorized to participate in SPP. TSA expects contractors in the Screening Partnership Program to provide screening services at a cost to TSA that is competitive with equivalent Federal operations. TSA plans to announce contract awardees for the participating airports beginning in the spring of 2005.

The qualified vendors must have screeners that meet all the requirements that are applicable to federal screeners, and they must receive compensation and other benefits that are not less than the level of compensation and benefits provided to federal screeners.

As per ATSA, screening will be carried out by screening personnel of a qualified private screening company under a contract with TSA. An airport can form a private company to apply to be one of the qualified vendors and bid on contracts. TSA will provide federal oversight for all contracts with private companies.