NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public-Private Partners for Airport Security

October 26, 2001

There is overwhelming evidence that highly professional public-private partnerships work in high-threat European countries, says Kenneth P. Quinn, former chief counsel to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The European system compares favorably to the unfunded mandate to provide security at airports that is put on American airlines, says Quinn:

  • There, the screening workforce is about 15 percent public and 85 percent private, and wages are often 60 percent higher -- here, wages are too low.
  • There, turnover is around 15 percent; here, it often exceeds 100 percent.
  • There, national governments impose strict training, with 36 hours' classroom time and up to 200 hours' airport training -- here, we require 12 hours' classroom and only 40 hours' on-the-job training.

There, proof of European Union member-state citizenship is often required of workers. Here, resident-alien status suffices. There, federal governments license the companies and their workers. Here, all security responsibilities fall on carriers, with no federal certification.

Disparaging and certainly nationalizing the private workforce at U.S. airports -- which by all accounts performed properly on Sept. 11 -- will cause the current system of contract workers to break down, as workers look for new jobs or transfer to more secure ones.

President Bush has asked Congress not to tie his hands by preventing him from turning to the private sector, saying: "Giving the government flexibility to use private contractors will facilitate transition to the new system, promote better screening services through competition, and ensure that security managers can move swiftly to discipline or remove employees who fail to live up to the rigorous new standards."

Source: Kenneth P. Quinn, "Nationalization won't work," USA Today, October 26, 2001.

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