Glacier Park Airport TSA Opt-Out Plan Hits Hurdle

By Beacon Staff

The Transportation Security Administration has put on hold a program that allows airports to privatize their security force — a move that could affect Montana’s Glacier Park International Airport.

TSA Administrator John Pistole issued a letter Friday saying that to preserve the federal agency as an “effective federal counterterrorism security network,” the Screening Partnership Program won’t be expanded beyond the 16 airports that use it to provide security through private screeners.

Glacier Park International is one of several airports that have applied for the opt-out program. The airport board began looking into privatization in the fall of 2007 when the airport was having staffing issues and customer service problems, particularly during the busy summer tourism season. The board decided a contractor could offer more staffing flexibility.

Airport Director Cindi Martin told the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell by phone Monday it is her understanding that the program is not dead. She says there might be an opportunity for the airport to apply for the program again.

Seven of the 16 nation’s privatized airports are in Eastern Montana and are operated as Trinity Technology Group Inc. They are in Sidney, Glendive, Glasgow, Havre, Wolf Point, Lewistown and Miles City and aren’t affected by the TSA decision.