TSA Continues to Negotiate with Airports for Use of Local Law Enforcement for Security

Article excerpt

Cities have raised serious liability and funding concerns with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is asking state and local law enforcement personnel to fill the gaps in airport security, until the TSA can train and deploy federal security personnel to all the nation's commercial airports.

In response to these concerns U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Under Secretary Stephen McHale informed a group of local government representatives, including NLC, last week, that, "We are not dosing any airports and do not intend to close down any gates," if airports do not meet the May 10 deadline for compliance with a security directive issued by the TSA to assign local law enforcement officers at the nation's airports to replace the National Guard.

In recent weeks, NLC and other local and state groups have been working closely with airport authorities, Congress and the administration to help local governments meet the new requirements for airport security. In early April, the TSA issued a security directive to all 429 U.S. commercial airports, requiring them to use local law enforcement officers (LEOs) to replace the National Guard at airports security checkpoints by May 10, 2002. The National Guard will officially withdraw from all U.S. airports by May 31.

Security Costs

Local officials have been concerned about the costs associated with the use of LEOs to provide security at airports until federal security personnel can be hired and trained by the TSA. In many areas, airport authority police cannot fully cover the security needs and surrounding local and state governments have been asked to provide officers at airports. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 (P.L 107-71) created the TSA and called for airport security to be a federal responsibility. The new federal security force will be paid for by a passenger security fee authorized in the legislation.

According to McHale, the TSA has been "working this process airport by airport to reach agreements to ensure that we maintain a high level of security at all airports and to agree on an appropriate level of reimbursement." However, there is no guarantee that cities will be reimbursed either in full or partially for the policing services.

McHale also said, "We [TSA] have enough money in the supplemental request to cover what we believe security costs will be through September 30. We are not expecting airports to rely on AIP [Airport Improvement Program] funds for this."

Many local officials have been concerned that they will have to use AIP funds to offset the costs of providing additional airport security in the interim until the TSA takes over the responsibility. The AIP program is the main funding source for capacity projects at airports, such as runway construction. Currently, the AIP program is funded at $3.3 billion, and the Aviation Security Act did allow for AIP funding to be used for security costs for this fiscal year. …