Daines urges new TSA employee screening policy be rescinded

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) contends that airports in his home state of Montana would be burdened by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee screening policy that he says should be revoked.

The “ill-conceived requirements” recently issued in the TSA’s National Amendment on Aviation Worker Screening “place a costly and undue burden on Montana airports while detracting from the common goal of safe and secure air travel,” wrote Sen. Daines and a GOP colleague in an Aug. 23 letter sent to TSA Administrator David Pekoske.

Specifically, the TSA policy requires airports with at least 250,000 enplanements to implement random screenings of aviation workers entering secure portions of the airport by Sept. 25, and requires airports to develop and implement plans for the explosive detection screening of aviation workers by April 2026, according to the lawmakers’ letter.

“These vague, unfunded mandates are well beyond the current scope of airport security programs and the current capabilities of Montana’s airports,” Sen. Daines and his colleague wrote. “The estimated cost to train workers, remodel space, and acquire detection equipment to meet these directives will reach hundreds of thousands of dollars and staffing these new screening positions could consume as much as 20 percent of the total airport workforce in some smaller airports.”

They noted that the currently proposed five-month timeframe for compliance in the policy is “simply inadequate” given the number of additional responsibilities airports are expected to bear. 

“Ultimately, if implemented, the National Amendment would represent a fundamental shift in TSA’s screening responsibilities and undermine the role in which they were specifically tasked to perform post-9/11,” wrote the lawmakers, who included U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT). “Airport staff would essentially be required to duplicate the individual screening process that TSA screening officers are trained for, have equipment for, expertise in, and are already performing at airports.”

Sen. Daines and Rep. Zinke requested that the policy be rescinded and that aviation security screening remain the sole responsibility of the TSA, even for aviation workers at airports. 

“If you intend to move forward with the amendment, we ask that its implementation be delayed for not less than one year and for a briefing no later than Aug. 31, on how the agency plans to address the concerns Montana’s airports have raised with the National Amendment,” they concluded.