Atlanta TSA could soon be nixed

There could be a new uniform paired with those surgical gloves that pat you down at the airport.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is in danger of losing its contract with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (HJIA), according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Words like “privatization” are being thrown around now because passenger wait times at security checkpoints are too long — lines at 6 a.m. were found to take nearly an hour to cross.

On Feb. 12, Hartsfield Jackson General Manager Miguel Southwell gave the agency 60 days to improve or the airport will bring in its own private contractors to man the checkpoints, according to WSB.

Undercover Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents tested TSA screeners 70 times, posing as passengers in order to “smuggle” weapons and explosives through airports nationwide in 2015. The agency failed 67 times to find the contraband items, or 95 percent of the trials, according to ABC News.

Southwell claims the airport is “giving serious consideration to privatization.” In an email to The Signal, TSA responded to Southwell’s letter, saying Hartsfield Jackson is crucial to its operations, and remains a focus airport for Neffenger.

“We recognize that the issues raised in the letter are a concern, not just in Atlanta, which is fueled primarily by the rapid growth in travel volume combined with a renewed focus on our security mission.”

TSA’s 2016 President’s Budget requested over $7 billion in funding. The budget includes a reduction of over $119 million and 1,748 personnel related to workforce savings from the risk based security measures, which include decreasing screener workforce and lanes due to a more efficient screening process requiring fewer personnel, according to TSA.

In Southwell’s letter, sent to The Signal by Director of Communications Reese McCranie, he said the airport is “giving serious consideration to TSA’s Screening Partnership Program (SPP),” which allows qualified private contractors to screen passengers and their luggage, and “is conducting exhaustive research and weighing pros and cons” of privatization.

Southwell said private contractors might be able to use a greater share of part-time workers than TSA does to handle the fluctuation of passenger volumes through security checkpoints.

TSA pledges to resolve the wait time issues by the summer. The agency will use more overtime to boost staffing, speed up training of new screeners, and deploy more dog teams that help human workers work faster, according to the AJC.

TSA also told The Signal resolving the security issues “calls for a collaborative approach with industry partners.”

“While we are working on better solutions, we believe the public will support our vital mission of ensuring safe air transportation,” the TSA Press Office said.

In 2014, the TSA screened about 660 million passengers and over 2 billion pieces of luggage, according to testimony to House Committee on Transportation Security given by Administrator Peter Neffenger. The administrator also said he is determined to fix root causes of security issues.

“My highest priority for TSA is determining root causes and implementing solutions to address the recent covert testing of TSA’s checkpoint operations and technology conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG),” he said.

In 2014, TSA also confiscated over 180,000 dangerous items, including over 2,200 firearms, according to Neffenger. He also said in the testimony increasing the number of patrons enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) programs, like the TSA Precheck Program, which allows known and frequent passengers to expedite security and do so up to five years.

The TSA Precheck Program allows international and domestic passengers to bypass removing articles of clothing or possessions while going through security. Members apply online or at the airport, and pay $85 to enroll for five years. More than 500,000 passengers use the Precheck Program, according to TSA.

Edward Davis, a Georgia State applied linguistics major, travels often to Brazil, but he said he thinks security wait times will not decrease even if personnel is increased, claiming he once had to wait over six hours to get through security during hurricane season.

“Due to the sheer size of the airport and influx of people, especially during the early morning, [getting through security checkpoints] can take up to 2 hours,” he said “Depending on the lines, and especially during the holidays, people need to arrive at the airport earlier.”


  1. If we had a system focused on real security there wouldn’t be any checkpoints, which are themselves a target rich environment for a bomber or shooter. We would concentrate of identifying terrorists, not detecting THINGS, at which TSA and their expensive scanning machines are no good at all. (The full body scanners can be defeated easily by anyone who understands how they work.)

    • It’s that darn 4th amendment and the lobbyist getting to the varied elected officials that keep getting in the way. They know what to do but are not allowed to do it. Everything decent measure is a privacy issue and the solution is normally a compromise.

  2. The reality is it will take them over a year if it happened fast. Then the winning bidder would offer the current officers the current positions. Then they would be funded on a formula used by TSA which would equate to how many officers they hire (about the same). Then they have to screen to the TSA procedures and methods. And they have local TSA oversight daily to insure they are following the procedures. Translation – no real change.

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