March 01--Atlantic City International Airport's aviation security will be restructured to fall under the supervision of Newark Liberty International Airport -- a switch that has prompted concerns from one congressman.
The Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency that oversees airport security nationwide, insists travelers will notice no changes and that Atlantic City's passenger screening will remain at the "highest level."
"TSA will maintain the personnel needed to provide effective operations and safe transportation for all travelers," the agency said in a statement. "We are making every effort to ensure that TSA employees are not displaced as part of this process. Screening operations will not be interrupted."
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, whose congressional district includes Atlantic City International, is awaiting more details from the TSA on the change, including whether it will affect passengers and result in any job cuts. Jason Galanes, a spokesman for LoBiondo, noted that the restructuring came as a complete surprise.
"We have concerns because we have unanswered questions," Galanes said. "I don't think anyone saw this coming."
Galanes confirmed that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that operates Atlantic City International, brought the TSA's restructuring to LoBiondo's attention. LoBiondo serves as chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, a position that gives him influence over the nation's airports.
Atlantic City is one of 17 airports nationwide undergoing a security-personnel realignment as part of a TSA plan to save about $8 million. As a result, Atlantic City is losing its "hub" status and instead will become a "spoke" of Newark for security supervision, the TSA said.
Until this point, Atlantic City has been serving as the hub among three airports that included Trenton and New Castle County, Del. Tom Coury, a former high-level commander with the Pennsylvania State Police, is based at Atlantic City and serves as the TSA's federal security director, or FSD, for those three airports.
With the change, the federal security director for Newark will handle the same duties for Atlantic City, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.
"The same level of leadership and authority will exist at every airport; there just may be a title change," Farbstein said of the realignment for the 17 airports nationwide. "However, there will always be an FSD linked to every airport. They just may be at an airport in a different part of the state. The FSD at Newark Liberty International Airport will be the FSD for Atlantic City International Airport."
Overall, about 80 TSA workers are based at Atlantic City. Farbstein said there will be no changes to the TSA security screeners at the airport checkpoints. The personnel realignment, though, will affect some of the TSA's "noncheckpoint security staffing," she noted.
Farbstein said there will be no layoffs in Atlantic City. Instead, TSA employees involved in the realignment will have the chance to fill other jobs in the agency and request a transfer to other facilities.
Although a relatively small airport in terms of airline traffic -- handling about 1.1 million passengers annually -- Atlantic City International is equipped with high-tech bomb detectors and multiple layers of security to thwart terrorist attacks. The TSA says Atlantic City's aviation security is on par with the country's major airports.
The TSA's security realignment comes at the same time that the Port Authority is trying to attract more airline service and develop Atlantic City International as a magnet for overnight tourists. Currently, the airport contributes only about 1 percent of Atlantic City's nearly 27 million annual visitors.
The Port Authority took over the airport's operation and marketing in July as part of Gov. Chris Christie's state initiative to boost Atlantic City's tourism and casino industries. The authority declined to comment on the TSA's security realignment.
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