D/FW Officials Say Screeners in Short Supply

The cutting of 91 security screeners at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport could soon mean longer waits for passengers at the checkpoints, officials fear.

As part of an annual national reshuffling of Transportation Security Administration screeners, D/FW will lose more than 6 percent of its screeners, down to 1,362, mostly through attrition, officials said.

"We do not anticipate the need for layoffs," TSA spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said.

She also said the smaller work force, augmented by part-timers, can keep security lines moving.

D/FW officials find that hard to believe.

"They need to tell me what my delays are going to look like," said Jim Crites, D/FW executive vice president of operations. "They are not stating that to any airport -- that's my complaint."

Officials with other major airports are equally skeptical, according to news reports.

During a recent visit to D/FW, then-TSA Administrator David Stone promised no significant changes would be made in D/FW's screener staffing levels. But Stone has left the agency.

Nationwide, the TSA is shifting some of its 45,000 screeners even as Congress weighs the possibility of reducing the overall numbers, officials said.

D/FW was allocated 1,388 screener positions last year. The 26-screener reduction at D/FW released Friday by the TSA was based on that figure. But D/FW has 1,453 screeners, so the cut is more extensive.

D/FW got the extra screeners after the TSA in May 2004 mandated the testing for explosives of all bags at D/FW. To meet the requirement, D/FW set up temporary bomb detection stations in Terminals B and E.

Even then, airport officials say, the TSA did not have enough personnel to efficiently keep the 34 lanes in Terminals A, B, C and E open -- or the five extra lanes the airport wanted to add.

And now the TSA doesn't have enough screeners to fill Terminal D's capacity of 14 lanes, Crites said.

So far, only four security lanes are open in the new Terminal D. Two more will open when American Airlines opens for business there.

D/FW never got more screeners for Terminal D, Crites says. Instead, the TSA moved some from six lanes in the older terminals over to Terminal D.

Local TSA and the tenant airlines have been helpful in devising quicker security lines, Crites said. But he added that the TSA in Washington, D.C., has done a poor job of letting the airports, Congress and the public know how the latest screener shifts will affect passenger wait times.