The ability to complete more than one feat at a time is a desirable quality and indeed, multi-tasking is beneficial to save time and money in nearly any endeavor if a goal is well-defined and there is a reasonable assurance of success. Anyone who follows Republican politics understands that one of their major goals is eliminating the government through privatization to enrich corporations, and if Americans are harmed in the process, then as John Boehner says, “so be it.” Now, Republicans have learned they can multi-task and moved to eliminate government jobs, enrich corporations, and hand over Transportation Security Administration (TSA) duties to for-profit companies. Giving counter-terrorism duties to private companies may not sound dangerous, but Republicans are proposing awarding contracts to foreign companies as well as domestic businesses.
Republican policy is if a government agency is successful, then destroy it by any means necessary by either defunding it, or transferring operations to a private corporation. In a conference report to H.R. 658, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Republicans proposed plans to expand the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) that allows private companies, instead of federal transportation security officers, to conduct airport security screening. Sixteen smaller airports use private screeners now, but Republicans believe corporations should handle all counter-terrorism activities under their expanded privatization plans.
The chairman of the transportation security subcommittee, Mike Rogers (R-Ala), articulated Republican intentions to award private businesses counter-terrorism duties so they can reap financial rewards when he said, “Rather than trying to insulate a giant federal workforce, TSA should be working to strengthen and improve the private screening program and make it more cost-efficient so that U.S. businesses can take on a more meaningful role.” The push for private contractors as a cost saving measure is problematic because they generally cost the government more money. Private screeners have the same training, follow the same regulations and must be paid at least as much as federal screeners, so Rogers’ argument is inherently false. The truth is Republicans are on a mission to replace federal agencies with corporations and if it is more costly and dangerous, then they accomplished their mission.
Under the SPP, airports can opt out of using federal screeners and it effectively means “opting in to the lowest bidder, which is not how homeland security should operate,” according to John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), the ranking Democrat on the committee said, “What we do not know is why the Republicans seem to be willing to pay more for the same services or how doing so will create jobs.” Perhaps Thompson just emerged after being isolated from the outside world for ten years, but job creation or saving money is not the Republican motivation for anything; enriching corporate wealth through privatization is their motivation, and if they can kill the government as well, then they achieved their goal.
The other question that every American should ask is how appropriate is it to contract counterterrorism duties to private screening companies, especially when the Republican legislation allows foreign ownership of screening firms. If, as Republicans say, the motive is increasing profits to private companies, how long before they award private contracts to run the FBI, CIA, or the Border Patrol? Is there any level of government Republicans will stop privatizing if given the opportunity? The Bush administration hired private mercenaries to guard diplomats in Iraq and wasted hundreds-of-millions of dollars enriching companies like Blackwater and Halliburton. There may be roles for federal contractors to fill doing some government work, but Homeland Security and counterterrorism are not appropriate candidates.
Republicans are not concerned with saving the government money or that a foreign-owned entity is allowed to conduct counterterrorism screening. Private companies not only have to provide training, pay equal or more wages, and follow the same regulations as TSA screeners, but they have to make a profit. The federal government still has to pay private firms with taxpayer dollars so there is no reasonable motivation except eliminating a crucial government agency. Republicans are so enamored with privatizing the government, that they do not care what foreign corporation runs the TSA, just so long as it is private. If it is an Al Qaeda front-group posing as a private screening firm, then Republicans are happy; just so long as it is private. The Republicans cannot even say they are creating jobs because their plan is to shift government jobs to the private sector for higher costs. It is possible that Republicans have a formula that counts hiring foreign screening companies that gives the appearance of job creation like Mitt Romney did while he was head of Bain Capital.
Republicans have made no secret of their attempts to privatize America’s government in the recent past, and they are at it again. This time though, they are gambling with American lives by pushing to privatize homeland security whether they award contracts to domestic or foreign companies. In HR 658, Republican multi-tasking accomplishes privatizing airport counterterrorism, increases spending, and jeopardizes Homeland Security by legislating that foreign ownership of private screening companies is allowed. The benefit to Americans is zero, but for private corporations, the profit potential is limitless and that is the ultimate Republican goal. Jeopardizing American’s safety is just an added bonus.