The head of the nation’s airport security said Thursday that airports can decide whether they want to privatize their security staff – amid exasperatingly long waits and continued security gaps – but the results are likely to be the same as using government workers.
Transportation Security Administration chief Peter Neffenger said it would take more resources – and security screeners – to cut into long wait times at the nation’s airports and responded to Republican critics who have said the entire operation should be privatized.
“The law does allow an airport to ask for a private contract workforce. It’s important to remember that that workforce is still contracted to the federal government, to the TSA,” Neffenger told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.” “It’s an airport decision to do that and we’ll work with any airport that wants to go with a private contractor. But once again, there’s still a TSA management team … and they’re trained to our standards and we see roughly the same type of performance between the private workforce and the federal workforce.”
Neffenger removed the TSA’s assistant administrator overseeing security, Kelly Hoggan, Monday as House lawmakers began an intense grilling of the agency because of long waits at the nation’s biggest airports and reports that federal whistleblowers had been retaliated against.
Lawmakers asked Monday why Hoggan was awarded a $90,000 bonus, despite a scathing internal government investigation which found rampant security failures.
Neffenger told CNN Thursday that he too was “outraged” at Hoggan’s bonus, but said it happened before he took over the agency last year. He also said that the agency still needs to replace thousands of workers who were lost in 2014 – which is at the center of the long lines.
But House Republicans have argued the government needs to end its involvement in airport security screenings.
Rep. Darrell Issa, the former head of the House Oversight Committee, argued this week that it was time to privatize all airport security in order to reduce wait times.
“The idea that somebody is probably full time government employee for 20 years, moving that bucket from one place to the other so you can put your small items in it. That’s an area where you look and say ‘You know what, that’s not really where the security is,’” Issa told Camerota on “New Day” earlier Thursday. “The security is in the knowledge and the oversight of these people doing these mundane jobs, but doing them in a way that shortens our lines and is more responsive.”