As part of its role in homeland security, TSA was required to hire and train federal screening personnel to take over all passenger-screening responsibilities at the nations 429 commercial airports starting in Nov. 19, 2002. Since March of 2003, over 3,000 of those original screener positions have been eliminated.
No Reductions in Security or Convenience, Promises TSA
Blaming budget restrains as the major cause for the cutbacks, TSA Administrator Adm. James M. Loy said the screener reductions will not lessen airport security or create additional inconvenience passengers. "By ensuring that security checkpoints are fully staffed during peak times we have been able to make staffing adjustments that largely have gone unnoticed by travelers," Admiral Loy said in a TSA press release. "Going forward, greater use of part-time screeners will be important in providing the efficient and effective service that air travelers have come to expect, as evidenced by smooth screening operations over the busy Memorial Day holiday."
A representative sampling of airports by TSA found average passenger wait times in April and May remained well below the goal of 10 minutes, at the same time cuts were being made. Reduction of the screener work force began April 1. Also, the number of prohibited items intercepted by TSA screeners totaled nearly 460,000 in April, the fourth-highest month since TSA assumed responsibility for airport security in February 2002.
"We are staying sharply focused on security as we make these changes," Admiral Loy said. "When we are done, the public will have a leaner, more effective screener work force, comprised of the best people for the jobs."
Whenever possible, TSA will depend on normal employee attrition -- resignation and retirement -- to accomplish screener reductions at individual airports. In addition, incumbent screeners can be fired for things you might have thought would have disqualified them to start with, including including criminal backgrounds, failure to pass drug and alcohol tests, and falsification of employment documents.
Qualified screeners at airports with oversized work forces will be allowed to transfer to airports needing screeners. In addition, some screeners will be allowed to transfer from full-time to part-time positions.