WASHINGTON -- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced approval of Sioux Falls Regional Airport in South Dakota for participation in the Screening Partnership Program (SPP).
TSA also announced that 34 companies have been approved as Qualified Vendors, eligible to compete to provide passenger and baggage screening services for the airports that are approved for the SPP.
Starting this fall, the Sioux Falls airport will begin the transition from federal TSA security screeners to using screeners employed by a qualified private company. Under the SPP, the federal security director (FSD) is still responsible for security at the airport and for maintaining TSA security standards.
"TSA is pleased to announce the approval of Sioux Falls Regional Airport for the Screening Partnership Program," said Kenneth Kasprisin, Acting Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for TSA. "TSA is ready, willing and able to work with any airport that makes the local decision to apply to the program."
TSA assumed responsibility for aviation security in February 2002. By November 2002, a federal work force was hired, trained and deployed to screen passengers at 424 commercial airports. Under a pilot program required by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), TSA selected airports in five cities to have screeners employed by qualified private companies: San Francisco; Kansas City, Mo.; Rochester, N.Y.; Tupelo, Miss.; and Jackson, Wyo.
Private screening companies may only hire employees who meet the same requirements as federal screeners. Like federal screeners, private screeners must be U.S. citizens, have a high school diploma or the equivalent, be proficient in English, and pass a ten-year FBI background check. In addition, all private screeners undergo 40 hours of classroom training and 60 hours of on-the-job training on the same standard operating procedures as federal screeners. This means that the private screeners at San Francisco International Airport, for example, operate under the same security procedures as federal screeners at other airports.
In 2004, as required by law, TSA analyzed the pilot program to determine if the private screeners delivered the same level security and customer service as federal screeners. TSA hired independent consultants to conduct a study, and it was determined that the private screeners were able to meet the same standards. Based on this conclusion, airport operators in November 2004 were able to begin applying to TSA to have screening performed by a qualified private company.
To date, seven airports -- Sioux Falls Regional Airport, Elko (Nev.) Regional Airport, and the original five pilot airports -- have applied to the SPP. In addition to Sioux Falls, the original five pilot airports have also been approved and will continue to have private screeners. Elko Airport Authority's application is under review and TSA is in on-going discussions with the airport regarding the application.