Mica Takes Aim at "Bloated" TSA

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The chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica, said airports that switch from all-federal security screening to private run security could save tax payers millions of dollars.

His remarks came in a press conference at the Orlando area's Sanford Airport.

Mica said this week the newly enacted Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act should streamline the process for airports that want to contract with private security screening firms instead of relying on Transportation Security Administration run screening.

The Winter Park Republican said that, in the decade since it was created, the TSA has ballooned into a "mammoth agency that attempts to intimidate small airports that are efficiently run."

He said switching the 35 top airports in the nation to private security screening would save tax payers one billion dollars over the next five years.

Mica said the TSA rejected some airports which applied to contract with private security because it said that would cost more.

But he said the agency's reasoning was not backed up by a Government Accountability Office report.

"GAO said that TSA cooked the books, that they added costs in," he said.

Sixteen of the nation's 457 airports currently run private security screening,  and there are others that want to do the same, like Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Sanford already tried to opt out of all-federal transportation screening, but was rejected by the TSA last year.

The airport’s president, Larry  Dale,  said opting out of TSA run screening is about more than saving money.

“We’re already responsible for security here," Dale said.  "If things screw up we get the blame. We want to have a part and a say in the security of this airport.”

Airports which opt out of all-federal screening will get to choose who screens their passengers, but security firms would still have to meet federal approval and operate under TSA guidelines.

Sanford could hire its own agents to run security screening, but it's more likely to contract with a private firm.

"We're not going to go out and do it ourselves like Jackson Hole (Wyoming) does, as a much smaller airport," Dale said.

Sanford has reapplied to opt out, and Dale hopes to have an answer from the TSA within months.