Federal anti-terrorism officials announced this morning they have granted Sacramento International Airport preliminary permission to employ private screeners at security checkpoints in place of federal Transportation Security Administration employees.
The move, if finalized, would make Sacramento the third-largest U.S. airport to switch to private contractors for security screening. San Francisco International, Kansas City and 14 smaller airports currently employ non-government employees at security checkpoints.
Sacramento is the third airport this year to receive permission to participate in the federal "Screening Partnership Program."
Florida's smaller airport, Orlando Sanford International, won federal OK last month, and Glacier Park International Airport in Montana got federal approval earlier this month.
Sacramento is expected to make the switch after the federal government solicits and reviews proposals from private security companies. TSA officials declined comment, but issued a press statement saying they will finalize the switch to private security only if they determine a private proposal will not "compromise security or detrimentally affect the cost-efficiency of effectiveness of the screening of passengers at the airport."
Sources who are not authorized to comment publicly said that could take up to a year.
Sacramento airport officials declined comment this morning, saying they had not been formally notified by TSA.
Airport officials had made the request earlier this year after Congress changed federal law to make it easier for airports to "opt out" of the federal TSA system. Airport Director Hardy Acree said at the time he believes private screeners can do a more efficient job than government employees.
"We're a fan of the private-public partnerships," Acree said after filing the application in April. "I think there is going to be a higher level of customer service."
TSA officials are in Sacramento today, speaking with TSA employees. Notably, the private security employees will be trained and monitored by the TSA, follow TSA procedures and use TSA equipment. TSA will contract with the private company, paying it for its services.