Montana airport to seek private security over TSA
BOZEMAN, Mont.—This city's airport could be the next one to ditch the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's security screening services in favor of those offered by a private security company.
The board of directors for the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport on Thursday voted unanimously to apply to join the TSA's Screening Partnership Program (SPP), which allows participating airports to replace the TSA with private security screeners, according to local TV news station KBZK.
The Bozeman airport's decision comes just days after the TSA approved a request from Florida's Orlando-Sanford International Airport to join the SPP. Orlando-Sanford International Airport was the first airport to receive such approval since President Obama signed a bill into law in February that makes it more difficult for the TSA to say no to such requests. There are currently 16 airports participating in the SPP, seven of which are located in Montana.
Brian Sprenger, director of the Bozeman airport, told KBZK TV that a private security firm would be more agile than the TSA in its response "to changes in the airport environment, personnel needs, airline flight schedule changes, and they're also able to address issues a lot quicker than the federal bureaucracy can."
Sprenger said improving customer service was also a factor in the board's decision. "We're looking at private security primarily to enhance the experience at our airport to ensure that we have good security but also good customer service at the same time," he told KBZK.
If the TSA approves Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport's request to join the SPP, the TSA would issue a request for proposals for the security contract. The TSA would select the winning bidder and would pay for the contracted services. TSA would continue to regulate the private company's airport security operations, and there would be no difference in the security protocols between a TSA-staffed checkpoint and one staffed by the company.
"I think we do better training. I think we emphasize customer service better. We're smaller and more flexible than TSA," Gerald Berry, president of Covenant Aviation Security, told KBZK. Covenant provides screening services at San Francisco International Airport, one of the original members of the SPP. "I think it's very hard for TSA to be a provider while they regulate themselves. I think that's one of the issues. They are certainly going to regulate us; they do a good job at that," he said.