A key development in the aviation security arena occurred yesterday when TSA formally announced the seven airports that will take part in airport employee screening pilot tests as required by the Omnibus Appropriations Act passed by Congress in January 2008. In the formal TSA announcement, TSA Administrator Kip Hawley said that “[t]hese pilots will give us important information as we evaluate the best way to secure the operations side of the airport. We appreciate the support of Congress and our security partners at the airports and look forward to working with them to implement our findings.” TSA also said that the use of multiple security measures will enable TSA to evaluate the most effective manner of screening airport employees. Airport employees and other employees including concession workers who have access to secure areas of the airports will be screened before they can enter those areas.
Airports Council International – North America, along with aviation industry groups such as AAAE, ATA, IATA, CAA, NATA and several other stakeholders worked together over the past several months with TSA to develop and roll-out an employee screening pilot test program.
The seven pilot test airports are Boston’s Logan International, Denver International, Jacksonville (Fla.) International, Kansas City (Mo.) International, Eugene (Ore.), Southwest Oregon Regional (North Bend, Ore.) and Craven Regional (New Bern, N.C.). TSA will pilot various screening techniques for 90 days at each airport. The legislation mandates 100 percent employee screening be evaluated at three airports and alternative employee screening at four other airports.
In its press release, TSA noted that it worked closely with airport stakeholder groups to develop the program and criteria for airport participation. TSA also referred to the joint ACI-NA/AAAE survey where “[m]ore than 100 airports expressed interest in participating in the pilots scheduled to begin in May.” Additionally, TSA said that airports were selected, in part, to ensure that those of different sizes are represented.
The ACI site has a breakdown of the pilot tests as far as where they will be conducted and what kinds of screening techniques will be used.
The aforementioned Omnibus Appropriations Act provided up to $15 million for these employee screening programs. TSA is required to report to Congress before September 1, 2008 on the cost and effectiveness of the pilot programs at each airport. There is no doubt that the report will play a critical role in determining what steps Congress takes in the future in regards to this issue.