Aviation Security: TSA's Cost and Performance Study of Private-Sector Airport Screening   [open pdf - 957KB]

"This report formally transmits the enclosed briefing in response to your request that we review the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Screening Partnership Program (SPP). In accordance with the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, TSA created the SPP to allow commercial airports an opportunity to apply to TSA to use private sector screeners through qualified private-screening contractors approved by TSA. In February 2008, TSA issued a report on its study comparing the cost and performance of screening services at SPP and non-SPP airports. Our briefing addresses the following questions: (1) To what extent did the design of TSA's study of the cost and performance of passenger and checked baggage screening services at selected SPP and non-SPP airports affect the usefulness of the study? (2) To what extent has TSA taken actions to identify and eliminate any unnecessary overhead/supervisory redundancies at SPP airports between TSA and contractor personnel? (3) What factors do airport operators cite as having contributed to airports' decisions about whether to participate in the SPP? We are recommending that if TSA plans to rely on its comparison of costs and performance of SPP and non-SPP airports for future decision making, the agency update its study to address the limitations we identified, for example, by including various cost elements that were excluded and conducting statistical tests to determine the level of confidence in any observed differences in screening performance. TSA generally agreed with our findings and recommendation."

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