TSA Overstates Costs of Private Alternatives


From the Washington Times:

Federal auditors found the agency erred in its cost comparisons, and a skeptical lawmaker said TSA did so to stop the use of private contractors to do screening — an option Congress wrote into the 2001 law that created the agency.

Sixteen airports throughout the country use private screeners under the Security Partnership Program (SPP), but TSA has barred other airports from joining the program.

In a letter to Congress released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said TSA's new estimates show that private screeners are just 3 percent more expensive than federal workers—not 17 percent, as the agency previously had stated.

Auditors said that earlier TSA estimates had not accounted for the costs of workers compensation, liability insurance, retirement benefits and administrative overhead involved in using federal employees

"TSA cooked the books to try to eliminate the federal-private screening program," said Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "GAO found that TSAignored critical data relating to costs."

Mr. Mica said the revised 3 percent cost difference is likely still too high because it does not take into account "the full cost of TSA's bloated and unnecessary bureaucratic overhead."….

Five airports recently have applied to join the SPP but have been denied by TSA officials, Mr. Mica said.

In January, TSA Administrator John Pistole announced those applications were being refused and that no other airports would be allowed to participate in SPP unless they could demonstrate a "clear and substantial advantage" in doing so.

Mr. Mica said his staff will continue to investigate the "distortion and misstatement of facts used in the denial of each of these five airports' participation in the federal-private screening program."

The Reason Foundation's Robert Poole on getting the TSA out of passenger screening.

The GAO study on TSA discussed above.