Saturday, July 09, 2005

Industry team forms to provide private screening at airports

Back in May, the Keystone Kops of the TSA administration held a meeting with its Screeners and one of the first words out the mouth of the FSD was, "I've never lied to you." As if he thinks our memories were that short, especially the memories of the former Screeners that were hired by the TSA when airport security was federalized in 2002.

He mentioned that Privatization was not going to occur. I found this article that cites different views.

By Chris Strohm

A major industry team has formed to provide private passenger and baggage screening services at the nation's airports.

Lockheed Martin and Covenant Aviation Security will seek contracts from the Transportation Security Administration to take over screening operations at airports. The companies said TSA plans to begin awarding contacts in May.

"The Lockheed Martin-Covenant team will bring experience-based innovation to security screening privatization and provide world-class training, human resources management, checkpoint traffic control and customer service through our partnerships with the TSA, airport management and the flying public," said John Freeh, president of Lockheed Martin Systems Management, in a statement.

Lockheed Martin has been under contract with TSA to conduct part of the agency's annual screener recertification program. Covenant has been under contract to provide private screening services at two airports.

TSA will collect proposals from private companies interested in doing screening until April 15. The agency plans to issue a list of qualified vendors by the end of May and begin making contract awards in the summer. So far, only one airport has applied to have private screeners: Elko Regional Airport in Nevada.

Congress created a federal screening workforce in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. A provision was included that would allow airports to submit applications to TSA starting Nov. 19 to have private companies manage local screening operations.

Congress also established a pilot program that allowed five airports to use private screeners. Those airports are in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Kansas City, Mo., Rochester, N.Y., San Francisco, Calif., and Tupelo, Miss. Covenant was contracted for passenger and baggage screener operations at San Francisco International Airport and Tupelo Regional Airport.

Both companies, however, have been criticized by screeners.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, TSA is investigating allegations by one screener at San Francisco International Airport that Covenant cheated to pass tests.

According to the screener, Gene Bencomo, the company devised an elaborate system to alert security checkpoints when undercover federal auditors, called decoys, arrived at the airport last year to conduct unannounced tests. As a result, Covenant's personnel intercepted as many as 90 percent of the federal decoys in the tests, Bencomo said in a complaint.

Screeners also have complained about how Lockheed Martin has handled its part of the screener recertification program. Screeners told Government Executive last year that Lockheed Martin trainers did not understand TSA standard operating procedures and used subjective criteria to administer the tests.

TSA expressed confidence in Lockheed Martin but eventually revamped the screener recertification program.

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