TSA Shakeup in the Works

According to the WaPo, the three-year old Transportation Security Administration is headed for a major shakeup:

The Transportation Security Administration, once the flagship agency in the nation’s $20 billion effort to protect air travelers, is now targeted for sharp cuts in its high-profile mission. . . . . Under provisions of President Bush’s 2006 budget proposal favored by Congress, the TSA will lose its signature programs in the reorganization of Homeland Security. The agency will probably become just a manager of airport security screeners — a responsibility that itself could diminish as private screening companies increasingly seek a comeback at U.S. airports. The agency’s very existence, in fact, remains an open question, given that the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security contains a clause permitting the elimination of the TSA as a “distinct entity” after November 2004.

Read the full article here. It adds the following bit of news on the public/private screeners front:

Last week, momentum accelerated in the push to replace federal screeners with private contractors at the nation’s airports. FirstLine Transportation Security, a Cleveland-area private security firm, became the first company to win approval for liability coverage under the SAFETY Act, which means that if the firm takes over checkpoints, claims will be capped in the event of a terrorist attack. The move clears a major hurdle in the return of private screening companies. The law creating the TSA allowed for federal screeners to be replaced by private companies after two years.

Be sure to check out Reason’s Aviation Security Resource Center for more on airport security and the debate over private screeners. Also, Bob Poole’s latest aviation security newsletter has more on the Congressional discussions about the future role of TSA, along with several other news items of note. (hat tip: Instapundit)