Thompson Introduces Bill to Reform TSA’s Contract Screener Program

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.