TSA administrator John Pistole wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal claiming there were "inaccuracies" in my recent reporting on the TSA.
Pistole claims that private screening at San Francisco International Airport is no better than TSA and comes "at a higher cost than federal screening."
As I note in today's WSJ, the opposite is true. A Congressional Transportation Committee Report (2011) found that if Los Angeles International Airport switched to private screeners similar to those at San Francisco, screening costs would fall by 42%.
Private screening is less expensive because each screener processes more passengers and there is lower turnover (screeners' salaries are the same.)
Pistole was likely referring to an internal TSA study. In 2007, the TSA determined that private screeners were 17% more expensive.
But the GAO looked into that study and found 10 different problems with it, noting that the TSA had simply ignored many costs, including "workers' compensation, general liability insurance, certain retirement costs..."
After the GAO report, the TSA came out with a revised study last year that found that private screeners were 3% more expensive.
The GAO says that the TSA's revised study is better, but that it still fails to address four concerns. "TSA needs to take additional actions... to address the remaining four limitations," the GAO said, noting that the TSA makes assumptions about some costs in their study that they were unable to justify.
Perhaps the TSA bent reality because bureaucrats don't like having competition any more than private businesses. Imagine if McDonalds did a study comparing their own food to Burger King.
Pistole also points out that "shoe bomber" Richard Reid boarded a plane just 30 days after Congress created the TSA, so the TSA shouldn't be blamed for that. That's a fair point.
It's also true that Richard Reid and the "underwear bomber" boarded flights in other countries, where TSA doesn't actually do the screening. That's true, but the TSA does set the screening standards.