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April 10, 2013

Thompson Introduces Bill to Reform TSA's Contract Screener Program

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, introduced the Contract Screener Reform and Accountability Act (H.R. 1455). He was joined by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA). Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Based on data provided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), over the last five years it has cost American taxpayers an additional $75 million to maintain contract screeners in the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) over what it would have cost to provide security through TSA.

Further, TSA has reported that numerous security breaches, including contract screeners not detecting prohibited items and improperly clearing passengers, regularly occur at SPP airports. There have been documented cases where contract screener personnel mishandled sensitive security information and at least one instance where a private security company thwarted covert testing of contract screeners by tracking testers throughout the airport and alerting screening personnel. TSA's contract screener program—SPP—is in need of reform and more robust oversight. The Contract Screener Reform and Accountability Act does just that.

This legislation requires more robust oversight of contract screeners and makes the following changes to the SPP Program:

  • Prohibits subsidiaries of foreign-owned corporations from obtaining SPP contracts.
  • Restores TSA's discretion to approve or deny an airport's application to use contract screeners.
  • Requires reporting of that security breaches at SPP airports.
  • Requires training for the proper handling of sensitive security information at SPP airports.
  • Mandates covert testing of contract screeners and imposing penalties for compromising testing.
  • Enhances customer service for the flying public who are screened at SPP airports.

Congressman Thompson released the following statement introducing the bill: "This bill we introduced today makes necessary and long-overdue reforms to TSA's Screening Partnership Program. Whether you are concerned about cost or security, it is hard to conclude that the protections under this program are adequate. In these tough economic times, I am particularly troubled that the program, as amended in last year's FAA reauthorization, opens the door to contracts with foreign-owned subsidiaries. Doing so could have huge implications on the financial wellbeing of frontline security workers."

Senator Brown released the following statement introducing his bill: "Shifting resources from Transportation Security Administration and its dedicated workers to companies motivated by profit will not reduce costs or make our nation safer," Brown said. "This bill will help ensure that private companies are the subject of the same rigorous training and oversight that Federal screeners undergo every day while ensuring no screener loses his or her job or takes a pay cut because a private screening company takes over screening operations."

Congresswoman Lowey, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement: "It is critical that we identify the gaps in our security screening systems to protect the traveling public. This legislation would help do just that," said Congresswoman Lowey. "By prohibiting foreign-owned companies from overseeing screening at our nation's airports, mandating disclosure of security breaches, requiring covert testing of screeners, and imposing penalties for those who interfere with testing, this bill would improve security practices at airports in New York and around the country."

Congressman Richmond, Ranking Member of the Committee's Transportation Security Subcommittee added the following statement: "The Contract Screener Reform and Accountability Act ensures that private screening companies are held to the same oversight standards required of all Transportation Security Officers," said Congressman Richmond. "In order to have a safe, thorough and efficient screening process, contract screeners must put in place the best practices for passenger screening, handling of sensitive security information and employee hiring. This bill would implement commonsense reforms like covert testing of checkpoints, requirements that all security breaches are reported and enhanced customer service procedures. I'm proud to introduce this bill with Ranking Member Thompson."

Bill Text

Bill Fact Sheet

Statement of Introduction

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Media Contact:
(Thompson) Adam Comis at 202-225-9978
(Brown) Lauren Kulik at 202-224-3978
(Lowey) Mark Prentice at 202-225-6506
(Richmond) Monique Waters at 202-225-6636