Members will hear testimony on the Transportation Safety Administration’s progress in completing this program and the lessons learned from the security screening pilot program. Senator Lott will preside. Following is a tentative witness list (not necessarily in order of appearance):
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Terry Anderson
Thank you Chairman Lott, Senator Rockefeller, and Members of the subcommittee for the opportunity to testify today. Over two years ago, Tupelo Regional Airport submitted an application to the newly formed Transportation Security Administration. This application requested that Tupelo be considered for the airport passenger and luggage screening pilot program. It included a business and security plan to allow the Tupelo Airport Authority to be responsible and accountable for total airport security; law enforcement, general aviation as well as passenger and luggage screening. The objective of this application was to provide TSA with a model that other category IV airports could emulate, a model that would save money, a model that was simple, effective and already a success at Jackson Hole and other small airports around the nation. Instead, Tupelo Airport Authority, without any warning or coordination, was given a private contract. Covenant Aviation Securities received the contract. There is not an issue with this particular private company. Covenant has done a creditable job. The issue is; is a private company, chosen with out any input from the airport, the best choice for small regional airports? Today, a month after the May 19th deadline for developing the Opt-out program criteria and procedures, airports are still without choices and a solution. Are the major stakeholders at the business end of airport security, the Airport Authorities, going to be allowed to participate in the process of developing the security screening plan for their airports? Will a variety of options be available to accommodate the diversity in airports? So far, political and TSA leadership have limited airport choices for a passenger screening security plan to two: a Federal workforce with TSA oversight, and a private contracted work force with TSA oversight. Two sizes don’t fit all! There’s a continuum of outstanding options between the two originally proposed by TSA. For the smaller airports, a third option should and must be considered: an airport authority workforce with TSA oversight. This choice offers the greatest degree of control, the most flexibility in human resources management, the most collateral benefits, the most direct response to station and equipment problems, the most effective interoperability with other agencies and, amazingly, it will actually save TSA money. Let’s look at these points in a little more detail: 1. First, The Chain of Command would be simplified. Who is normally the Airport Security Coordinator (ASC)? Both the ASC and the assistant ASC are Airport Authority employees, usually the Executive Director and the Security Director. Under their guidance and leadership, the Airport Security Plan, the Airport Emergency Plan, the Airport Certification Manual, the airport’s Letters of Agreement with the FAA and, in the case of Tupelo Regional Airport, the Reimbursable Agreement with TSA for Law Enforcement Officer presence in the sterile area, are written, maintained and carried out. 2. Span of Control would be reduced. With a private contractor, another level of bureaucracy, additional administrative functions, a separate decision ladder, information and data distribution system and more complicated human resource conflict resolutions are introduced. With the Airport Authority, responsibility and accountability for security issues, personnel issues, equipment issues, lease issues, maintenance issues, administrative issues and operational issues would be resolved at the airfield and mitigated directly with TSA. 3. Economy of Scale opportunity will optimize all aspects of station management. The Airport Authority has the greatest potential to employ this strategy. Cross training and a team philosophy toward complete airport security would result in a leaner, better educated, more qualified workforce. 4. Costs will be minimized. Who better can control all the budgetary elements of airport and terminal security expenses? Who best can administer the distribution of part time and full time personnel, the expenses of administrative overhead, the needs of the workforce, and the coordination of terminal changes? A corporate headquarters in a large metropolitan city hundreds of miles away or a headquarters (the Airport Authority) located right at the airfield? In that business plan submitted by the Tupelo Airport Authority in May 2002, a security screening plan costing $ 575,000 was offered. Records indicate that the private contract option resulted in more than $1,000,000 in costs. A lot of security equipment could be purchased with that difference. Many of the smaller regional airports could use the revenue stream and potential bonuses on airport security projects that TSA is currently having trouble funding. The local economy would benefit from the airport spending money locally. That’s a win-win proposition. Let’s not ignore the option that best fits the force and strategy to the objective. By allowing the Airport Authority to control all the security functions at their airfield, the value added benefits of direct chain of command, flexibility, accountability, ownership, future adaptability and lowest price offers the best solution. That concludes my testimony. I will be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. Richard A. Atkinson, III
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to offer testimony on the subject of Security Screening Options for Airports. Yeager Airport, located in Charleston, WV, is the state’s largest commercial service airport serving more than 500,000 passengers per year. The airport is served by five airlines currently and the sixth, Independence Air, will begin service on July 23rd. We have been very pleased with the implementation of passenger screening by the Transportation Security Administration. Beginning with the planning process by Lockheed Martin and Boeing Corporations and leading to the required physical changes to the airport terminal and installation of state of the art equipment for passenger and baggage screening to the hiring of a dedicated, well trained and quality work force, the process has worked well. The quality of passenger and baggage screening by the Transportation Security Administration personnel has been very good. We have a Federal Security Director that works well with the various stakeholders at the airport and he is committed to insuring that his staff operates in a professional and courteous manner. I believe it is very important for effective passenger and baggage screening that there be a good working relationship between the Federal Security Director and the Airport Stakeholders. Working at the local level, we have been able to implement the necessary security changes in a way that has caused the least amount of disruption to the operation of the airport while at the same time vastly improving the quality of the security operation. During the planning process, I believe the early involvement of all interested stakeholders at the airport resulted in a transition plan that was easy to implement and caused the least amount of disruption possible during the necessary changes to the physical structure of the building. The contractors, hired by the TSA to plan for the transition, were not always willing to recommend the preferred solution at first, but in working together with the FSD, the airlines and airport we would make a case for that course of action and we reminded the contractors that we were the ones that were going to have to live with the results and work within the physical layout. I am pleased to say that give and take during the planning process resulted in a better, finished product. I question weather or not a private contractor would be willing to implement the best solution or if they would attempt to take the course of action that would result in short term savings and ignore the long term benefits in productivity and improved security that would result from an investment in the front end of the process. As an example, we determined that the best location for the screening checkpoint would require the relocation of the gift shop. The TSA was prohibited from paying for that move. The Airport Authority used Passenger Facilities Charge funds that were authorized for that use in the Transportation Security Act of 2001 to pay for part of the move of the gift shop and the operator of the gift shop invested funds in the new location and received an extension of the lease term in order to amortize that investment. It was also determined that the best solution for baggage screening be completed in the baggage backup room, or in-line. We insisted upon this solution because it provides the best security system for baggage screening. This arrangement moves the baggage most efficiently and with no noticeable impact to the passengers. The airport installed additional digital security cameras on its existing system so that the process is monitored and recorded. The installation of an in-line CTX machine enabled the TSA to reduce the number of baggage screeners necessary to process bags while at the same time completing the required 100% inspection of all checked bags. The easiest solution would have been to install Explosive Detection Devices in the ticketing lobby; however, that arrangement would not have been customer friendly or provided the best security. A quality security system requires, three elements for success; one, a well thought out set of standard operating procedures; two, the best and most technologically advanced equipment and three; and most important a well trained and committed work force. I will offer that the TSA has made substantial progress on developing a well thought out set of standard operating procedures; however, that effort is never complete and constant attention must be paid to analyze and evaluate the system so that it can be continually improved. The testing of various technologies is ongoing at various airports and the results of those pilot projects will enable the development of implantation of the next generation of passenger, baggage and access control technology. I want to complete my testimony by focusing on what I believe is the most important element in quality passenger and baggage screening and that is the human element. It has been my experience that the TSA work force at Yeager Airport is deeply committed to the mission of protecting our Nation from another terrorist attack. In contrast to the work force that was employed by the private screening company prior to September 11, 2001, the TSA has not had substantial turn over in the work force. Although, it has been my experience that TSA personnel at Yeager Airport are very competent, there has been a breach of security at the passenger checkpoint in one instance. The safeguards in the system were able to detect the breach and FSD took decisive and immediate action to correct the problem. I have doubts that a contractor, whose profits are tied to performance, would be as quick to admit a mistake and take action to correct that mistake. TSA personnel at Yeager Airport have been well trained and they show up for work everyday and perform their duties in a professional manner and in way that is customer friendly. Having a stable, dedicated workforce is a very important factor in ensuring there are not breakdowns in the security system. Because, as we all remember, a breakdown in the security system can result in disastrous results. The image of the second plane slamming into the World Trade Center is forever etched in my mind. A few days before that terrible day the FAA inspected the private screening process at Yeager Airport. In the exit interview with the inspector, we talked about the low pay and benefits for the private screening personnel and how that made the system vulnerable to sloppiness because of low motivation and high turn over, or worst yet, make an unscrupulous person subject to corruption. I will never recommend to the Airport Authority that operates Yeager Airport that we participate in the opt-out system. I make that statement for a variety of reasons; first and foremost, I believe the essential role of the federal government is to ensure the safety and security of the citizens and I believe that airline passenger screening is an essential national defense action, and second, I will never forget that when we had private contractors, who were regulated by the FAA on 9-11 that the terrorists were 19 for 19 in gaining access to our national aviation system with an intent to do harm. Thank you for your interest on this matter.
Mr. Patrick Pacious
Click here for a PDF version of Mr. Pacious' remarks.
Mr. Tom Blank
Click here for a PDF version of Mr. Enrique Salem's remarks.