Government plans to relax control of airport security - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Government plans to relax control of airport security

June 25, 2004

Albany -- Expect to see some changes soon in the people checking your baggage at airports. In November, the Bush Administration will give airports around the country the option of replacing federal screeners with private security.

Kirk Johnson travels at least four times a year for business. During that time he's seen his share of government-trained security screeners.

"It's improved since 9-11 in the beginning it was slow, (but) as time has gone on, the process has increased and has gotten a lot more efficient," says Johnson.

Soon the Transportation Security Administration will give airports the option to replace government screeners with those from private companies. Under the Screening Partnership Plan, the government will help fund new screeners hired by airports who must have the same training and provide the same level of security as current workers. Southwest Georgia Regional Airport officials are undecided on which option they will chose.

"TSA has done a tremendous job. They have fantastic personnel, and we are more than pleased with their performance and having them here in the airport," said Interim Airport Director Robert Mohl.

The advantage of the new program is that it will give airports control they don't have now. They will be able to hire and fire workers based on performance. A move some believe will help make travel safer but leaves others skeptical.

"I really think that it depends on the training. Whichever sector they choose to go with, they need to be properly trained," says traveler Joel Ramirez.

"I'm hoping that government has a role in overseeing the private sector, and I hope that they are both working together," says Edwin Green.

Trials of using private security has been used in some airports with mixed reviews on whether travelers really feel safer. Leaving many concerned about whats soon to come

A report out Friday says Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is considering a return to private security screeners. The chairman of the Albany Aviation Authority says the commission will review any changes before a final decision is made.

posted at 6:23PM by scott.hunter@walb.com