City Critical of Plan to Cut Some Sky Harbor Security Screeners

PHOENIX (AP) -- A federal plan that would take 37 security screeners from Sky Harbor International Airport here could undermine passenger safety, city officials say.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten have written a letter to the Transportation Security Administration, saying they have ''profound concerns'' about the proposal's impact.

They also chastised the agency for not seeking their input before details of the plan were released Thursday.

Gordon and Bilsten also point out that Phoenix has spent more than $32 million in the past four years to add security checkpoints at Sky Harbor's three passenger terminals with more planned.

More than 440 airports across the nation will see staffing levels change as a result of the TSA reshuffling plan, which could go into effect by Oct. 1.

Some airports will lose up to one-third of their screeners. Others, like Los Angeles International Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, will gain more than 100 people.

Sky Harbor's loss equates to 4 percent of its 920 screeners.

Officials with the TSA - formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to supervise security efforts at the nation's airports - claim the move will allow it to place screeners where they are needed most.

The agency cannot simply hire additional personnel because Congress has capped its workforce at 45,000.

Although Sky Harbor is expected to serve 40 million passengers this year and 50 million by 2015, it doesn't have to screen as many people as other airports because many travelers who fly through Phoenix are on connecting flights.

In those cases, passengers never have to leave the secure areas of the airport and therefore don't need to go through a security checkpoint.