WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Wednesday, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the Homeland Security Department, formally objected to a proposal by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to reduce the airport screening workforce at Portland (ME) International Jetport by nearly 30 percent. In her May 7th letter to Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, Collins said that the proposed reduction is based on outdated information and will have an enormous impact on passenger delays during Maine’s peak travel season.
The cutbacks, scheduled to take place May 31 and September 30, 2003, would likely require Portland to eliminate one of its three screening lanes. The Transportation Security Administration has announced plans to reduce the nation’s approximately 56,000 airport screeners by 6,000 workers. Under the plan, the Portland Jetport is scheduled to lose 30 of its 101 passenger and baggage screeners. Meanwhile, TSA is allowing 184 other U.S. airports to either maintain or increase their existing workforces.
“If these cutbacks are necessary, then each airport should take its fair share,” Collins said. “But, in fact, the average workforce reduction is 12.6 percent per airport, compared to Portland’s nearly 30 percent reduction.”
Apparently, TSA reached this determination based on the conclusion that Portland has only two permanently authorized screening lanes. However, in January 2003, TSA authorized the Jetport to begin operating a third screening lane because of lengthy passenger delays.
“I am concerned that if the third lane is eliminated, passengers at Portland will once again experience significant delays,” Collins said.
According to Portland Jetport Manager Jeff Schultes, the cutbacks could result in passenger delays of up to 45 minutes.