TSA internal proposal looks at eliminating security screenings at smaller airports.
An internal Transportation Security Administration proposal floats the idea of eliminating security screenings at 150 small-to-medium sized airports across the country as a cost-saving measure, according to agency documents first reported on CNN
The network’s story states that “the internal documents from June and July suggest the move could save $115 million annually, money that could be used to bolster security at larger airports.”
While the TSA proposal focuses on airports served by planes with 60 or fewer seats, which means the California Redwood Coast — Humboldt County Airport in McKinleyville could possibly be a contender, specific sites are not included, according to the CNN report.
A TSA spokesperson told the network that the concept
"is not a new issue" and the elimination of security screenings is permitted under "the regulations which established TSA."
The agency also released two statements in response to media coverage, which state the agency’s “top priority is to protect the nation’s transportation system” and that “no decisions have been” made on the proposal that was part of “pre-decisional budget deliberations” to look at “potential operational changes to better allocate limited taxpayer resources.”
“Any assertions to the contrary simply aren’t true,” the statement reads. “TSA is committed to discussing possible ways to be more efficient in the best interest of taxpayers and the American people, and in the carrying out of its core security mission.”
The TSA screens an estimated 2.5 million passengers each day at 440 airports nationwide.
Under the proposal, passengers from select airports and their baggage would only undergo security screenings after arriving at a larger hub, the CNN report states. In Humboldt County’s case, that would mean the San Francisco or Los Angeles airports, although it’s unclear how the process would work.
CNN reported that security experts and TSA officials, some of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, decried the concept of having passengers and crew members fly on unsecured flights. Members of Congress and a flight attendants union have also pushed back on the idea.
One of the TSA releases states that screening changes would “not take place without a risk assessment to ensure the security of the aviation system.”
Rod Dinger, interim manager of the McKinleyville airport, notes that the proposal is just that — a proposal — but also says the suggestion goes against the concept of airline security put in place after the 9/11 attacks with the establishment of the TSA, which provides all airports consistent levels of screening.
“I just can’t imagine, personally, that they would stop it at the smaller airports,” he says, adding that he doesn't see the Arcata-Eureka airport in the mix due to its volume of passengers and flights.
Dinger, who has 30 years of experience in airport management, also notes that were the idea to move forward — something he does not foresee happening — no action would take place “very quickly on something so drastic.”
“I’m not sure how much traction it will get,” he says.
Read the TSA statements below:
There has been no decision to eliminate passenger screening at any federalized U.S. airport. TSA remains committed to its core mission to secure the Homeland by screening more than 2.5 million airline passengers per day. Every year as part of the federal budget process TSA is asked to discuss potential operational efficiencies—this year is no different. Any potential operational changes to better allocate limited taxpayer resources are simply part of predecisional discussions and deliberations and would not take place without a risk assessment to ensure the security of the aviation system.
TSA’s top priority is to protect the nation’s transportation system. When securing the homeland, managing operations, assessing risks, measuring security effectiveness, and analyzing efficiencies is a routine and critical part of the process. TSA’s budget request for FY2020 is still in development and reports of proposed TSA budget numbers are part of pre-decisional budget deliberations that are commonplace across federal agencies. No decisions have been made. Any assertions to the contrary simply aren’t true. TSA is committed to discussing possible ways to be more efficient in the best interest of taxpayers and the American people, and in the carrying out of its core security mission.