TSA says it will quit funding some agents, leaving it to airports

WASHINGTON (WCIV) -- The Transportation Security Administration is telling airports they will need to foot the bill for some agents running security.

According to information in an Oct. 3 letter, Charleston International Airport officials were told that the two TSA agents who monitor the exit lanes between the terminals and the rest of the airport will not be funded by the TSA after Dec. 31.{}

Instead, the airport will have to resolve the staffing issue for the two positions. In Charleston's airport, the exit lanes are manned for 20 hours a day every day. The decision comes in the middle of the airport's budget year, which creates a problem. Officials were not expecting this change, so extra personnel were not included in the budget.

Airport officials said Monday that they were weighing three options: hiring security contractors to monitor those lanes; installing some kind of technology-based solution that will monitor the exit lanes around the clock; or join with other airports that are planning to file suit against the TSA.

The second option will have to be approved by the TSA. Currently, the TSA does not allow for non-human monitoring of the exit lanes.

If Charleston airport officials choose to join a lawsuit, they will work with either the Airports Council International or the American Association of Airport Executives, two Washington-based groups that work closely with the TSA to resolve security-related issued.

The AAAE on Oct. 1 sent a letter to the TSA asking that defunding of the exit lane agents be delayed until a technology-based solution can be developed.

In May, ACI and AAAE sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee protesting the TSA's change.

"Congress, through the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, delegated the responsibility for passenger and baggage screening to TSA following the tragic events of 9/11. It was decided by Congress that aviation security was a matter of national security and should be provided by the federal government," the letter to Rep. Hal Rogers read.

According to the 2014 Appropriations Bill, the exit lanes were, before 2001, monitored by air carriers. After 9/11 that responsibility was transferred to the TSA, a body that -- due to budget constraints -- wants to shift the security responsibility back on the carriers and the airports.