AIN Blog: Mica Still Jousting with TSA

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Security lines at Orlando
Senator John Mica wants to replace airport TSA screeners with private companies, claiming it will cost less and eliminate some of the 'bloated bureaucracy' that infuriates travelers.
June 1, 2012 - 3:22pm

Florida congressman John Mica is still tilting at the Transportation Security Administration’s windmills, but time may be fleeting.

As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the 10-term Republican legislator wields tremendous power over all aviation matters. One of his stated goals is prying what he calls a “bloated” TSA from under the weight of an even more bloated Department of Homeland Security.

But his top goal is to eliminate the approximately 52,000 TSA screeners. Although most are good people, and take considerable abuse from unhappy passengers, there is nothing about the TSA that is more loathed.

Mica wants to replace TSA screeners with those hired by private security companies. To that end, he was able to insert language in the FAA reauthorization bill that makes it easier for airports to switch to private security firms. The legislation effectively removes barriers that give the TSA broad powers to deny privatization efforts.

“Hopefully, we can get most of the airports into that model [privatization],” says Mica. But he is the first to admit that progress has been tough. Currently, only 16 of the nation’s roughly 450 airline airports employ private screeners, and the TSA—not surprisingly—has dug in its heels.

TSA Administrator John Pistole, the former number-two man at the FBI, claimed at a congressional hearing in February that an internal study conducted by the agency found that private screening costs 3 percent to 9 percent more than federal screening.

That notwithstanding, one of Mica’s arguments in favor of private screeners is that it would be less expensive. “It’s a bloated bureaucracy that is mostly security theater,” he counters.  A congressional study has estimated that the nation’s 35 busiest airports would save $1 billion over five years if they adopted private screening.

In a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) senior executive vice president Todd Hauptli described Mica as “kind of like a dog with a bone with this stuff; he keeps going after it. He’s tenacious.” The AAAE supports Mica’s efforts.

Larry Dale, president of Orlando Sanford International Airport, told the paper that his airport recently resubmitted an application with the TSA that would allow its two-terminal facility to hire private screeners. The article noted that Dale has been a frequent campaign contributor to Mica, whose Florida district begins a few miles up Interstate 4.

Officials at Orlando International Airport (MCO), the region’s largest, said the facility is considering private screeners, although no decision has been made. Their counterparts at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood and Miami International airports said there are no current plans to switch from the TSA.

So, much like Don Quixote, Mica is still facing an uphill fight. Time to summon Sancho Panza?

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Bea
on June 2, 2012 - 7:49am

Much ado about nothing.
Passengers object to sexual assault and ogling as a condition of boarding a plane -- not to mention the extreme violence done to the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the government from unreasonably searching us. Whether the goon groping them wears the TSA's blue gloves or a "private" company's uniform while molesting them under the TSA's orders doesn't matter.
Mica ought to be deported for sheer imbecility. He brags that he helped establish the TSA but now wants to undo it and put us back to precisely the same situation on 9/10/01 -- ie, "private" screeners pestering passengers under federal guidelines. Except then it was the FAA instead of the TSA controlling checkpoints.
Mica has cost us billions. And his TSA has irreparably damaged our freedom. Run the louse out of town.

No Avatar
Ronny Lammatee
on June 4, 2012 - 8:08am

WFTV in Florida says:

Covenant Aviation Security was one of the private security companies who would
benefit from the change in the law.
The company has reportedly won $692 million dollars in contracts since 2002.

The company, based in Mica's home district of Casselberry, and is now set to score again, thanks to his new legislation.

Some critics said it's no coincidence.

"The whole thing doesn't pass the smell test, and it kind of muddles the issues, the greater issues as in whether you should go to privatized screening or not. That one doesn't look good," said aviation consultant Jeff Price.

The president of Covenant Aviation Security has contributed $1,700 to Mica's campaign over the years.

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Phil
on June 8, 2012 - 3:50pm

Has anyone done research on Micas relationship with CAS? Has anyone figured out how this will be saving the government money? Right now at MCO, CAS has officers working the doors for 12$ an hour. CAS has a contract that pays them $25 per hour per officer. CAS is making a $13 an hour profit off of the government. How is this cutting costs? On June 21st Orlando-sanford will make a decision that will effect 75 officers. Most of those officers get paid around $15 an hour. If CAS gets the gig, the government will be spending an average of $10 more per hour on what TSA was doing for cheaper. Saving money? No! Mica and Dale will be reaping the benifits.

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