TSA pushing exit lane coverage off on airports

TSA announced a pending Airport Security Program amendment that intends to require airports to staff sterile area exit lanes, by the end of this year. This has been a sore spot for airport operators for many years, as pre 9/11, exit lane protection was the responsibility of the air carrier.

When TSA took over the screening programs from the air carriers after 9/11 they mostly just replaced the existing contract screener personnel. Then in 2006, then-TSA Administrator Kip Hawley issued a memo stating that when the checkpoints are open and located adjacent to a screening checkpoint, TSA would continue to staff. However, if the checkpoints were physically separated from the checkpoint or after the checkpoint closes at night, the airport is responsible. Some airports paid attention, others ignored it as it was not an official amendment or a security directive.

Sequestration is likely behind this latest move. TSA has been trying to shirk this duty for years and now they have the convenience of saying “it’s a budget issue.”

The airport community has long contended that this is an overreach by the agency to assign security responsibilities and related cost to the airport community for TSA budgetary convenience.

Key Points:
– TSA asserts that there is “no statutory requirement for TSA to staff exit lanes”
– TSA intends to issue amendments to Airport Security Programs through FSDs to require that airports staff all exit lanes.
– TSA currently staff co-located exit lanes at 145 airports, with the majority in the Cat X and Cat 1 category
– TSA is “reviewing technology” for implementation at airports that would eliminate the requirement for staffing. No technology is currently approved for broad deployment.

This may provide an opportunity for many service providers to implement technologies to help protect exit lanes, which is a significant personnel cost issue for airport operators.

The regulations dictate that protection of the sterile area is a dual responsibility, both 1542 (airport security) and 1544 (aircraft operator security). Perhaps the air carriers will step up to provide personnel but that’s unlikely to happen.

The timeline for implementation proposes that an ASP Amendment will be released for broad comment, not limited just to the airport community, on April 22 for a 45 day comment period. The comments will be addressed by August 1st with ASPs issued to FSDs by September 1st. The agency’s goal for the transition of staffing is December 1st.

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2 Responses to TSA pushing exit lane coverage off on airports

    • It’s not an NPRM so there’s not a public commentary process. So far, TSA is talking about it being an Amendment, which means they may not open it up for comment however the industry associations are definitely commenting. Recommend contacting AAAE or ACI directly to lend support.

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