Orlando airport backs off call to privatize TSA

Orlando airport backs off call to privatize TSA

Originally published in The Orlando Sentinel on March 30, 2018

Orlando’s airport has backed off from its push to privatize security officers.

The announcement came Friday after an hourlong meeting between TSA, airport authority members, U.S Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S.Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto and the union representing TSA officers.

Authority chairman Frank Kruppenbacher, the most vocal backer of privatization, said he would formally ask the full authority at its April board meeting to cease efforts toward ousting TSA officers to bring in a private workforce.

The controversy arose in February when Kruppenbacher and other board members put TSA on notice that the airport planned to apply for privatization because of long lines at security checkpoints.

Nelson, Demings and Soto, all Democrats, on Friday emphasized their opposition to privatization.

“But I take the underlying point to be that it was a cry for help for this airport,” Soto said of the airport’s push for privatization.

TSA’s federal security director for Orlando, Jerry Henderson, said steps to improve screening times have included more officers, bomb-detection dogs and new screening lanes at the airport’s west side.

“We have gotten attention,” said airport director Phil Brown. “I have had one of the best meetings I’ve ever had with TSA headquarters.”

Brown said intense effort by the airport and TSA went into getting construction plans and permits prepared for new screening lanes.

“I think for us it was a world land-speed record to get those plans approved,” Brown said.

Kruppenbacher said a month ago the airport authority was on the verge of committing to privatizing screening officers.

“These were not threats,” Kruppenbacher said. “This board was moving to privatize in my opinion.”

No large airport has transitioned from TSA to private security, but San Francisco’s airport has had private screeners since TSA was established in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks.

Brown and Henderson said that screening times have improved in recent weeks even though the crowded airport is having its busiest time of the year.

The new screening lanes are to open next month, a measure that required moving businesses out of that part of the airport.


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