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Private Air Screeners Get Clearance

June 25, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Airports that want to replace government security screeners with privately employed workers can do so by early next summer, the Bush administration told Congress on Thursday.

Thomas Blank, assistant administrator at the Transportation Security Administration, told the Senate aviation subcommittee that airports would have three options: remain in the federal system, use a private contractor to hire and train screeners, or run the screening themselves. They can apply for a change in November.

Airport groups estimate between 20 and 100 of the 445 commercial airports under TSA supervision will choose to opt out of the system. Those that do will be able to leave the federal system starting early next summer, Blank said, though their security systems still will be overseen by the TSA.

Smaller airports are likely to be most interested in running their own screening operations because it would be simpler. They would avoid red tape from Washington while being able to do their own hiring and training.

Blank said the TSA was considering allowing airports that hire their own screeners to use those employees for tasks unrelated to security during off-peak hours. That would solve a problem for airports that have busy morning and evening rush hours but not much for screeners to do in between.

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