Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What’s the Best Way to Screen Airport Employees?

Photo of an airport employee being screenedFor some time, there's been debate on whether TSA should implement 100 percent screening of airport employees every time they enter the secure area of an airport. We screen passengers every time they get on a plane, so some say we should screen airport employees every time they go into a secure area of an airport, including baggage facilities, gate areas, and airplanes. After all, they say, if a bad guy had access to critical areas of the airport, they could pull off an inside job.

It’s important to note that airport employees who require access to secure areas of airports must pass a background investigation to obtain an access badge. Through the background check, we know a lot about these airport employees, and they are also well-known to other airport workers who see them every day and would know if something didn’t look right.

Currently at all airports, TSA officers can be deployed anywhere at anytime to inspect workers, their property and vehicles. These officers ensure workers follow proper access procedures when entering secure areas, display the appropriate credentials and do not possess items unrelated to their work that may pose a security threat.

Earlier this week, TSA began an employee screening pilot program in seven airports, as required by Congress in January 2008. The pilot programs started on May 5 and will run for 90 days.

Seven airports will participate in the pilot, representing different locations and airport sizes. One hundred percent employee screening at either the checkpoint or airport perimeter gates will be conducted at Boston Logan International Airport, Jacksonville International Airport in Florida, and Craven Regional Airport in New Bern, North Carolina. This means that every time an employee has to enter the secure area, they have to be screened. At these airports, there may be slightly longer checkpoint wait times for passengers and employees, particularly during peak times, as the volume of traffic will increase.

Denver International Airport in Colorado; Kansas City International Airport in Missouri; Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend, Oregon; and Eugene Airport in Oregon will conduct layered, enhanced employee screening methods. These include increased random physical screening and the deployment of portable equipment to screen employees throughout the airport environment. Additionally, we will be providing behavior detection training for law enforcement officials and airport operations/security personnel and employee security awareness training to enable these individuals to identify potential security risks.

The Homeland Security Institute will assist in collecting results, evaluating the programs and reporting the results to Congress in December 2008. They’ll be looking at efficiency and effectiveness of the pilot programs, required costs to implement comparable activities at all commercial airports, staffing requirements, necessary infrastructure improvements, and passenger and employee wait times, among other things.

We look forward to seeing the results, and as soon as we can, we’ll report them on the blog. If you’re going through one of the airports in the pilot, let us know how things went for you.

TSA EoS Blog Team