El Segundo Blue butterfly

Pistole nixes TSA privatization; LAX saves butterflies

Close to a dozen airports around the country have applied for – and were planning to apply for –the TSA’s Screening Partnership Program (SPP), which allows airports to replace government screeners with those employed by TSA-approved private companies.  [See my story: Toss the TSA?]

16 airports, including those in San Francisco and Kansas City, are currently part of that SPP program and seem pretty happy with it. But last Friday TSA administrator John Pistole issued a memo saying he will not allow the program to expand.

“These airports will continue to be regulated by TSA and required to meet our high security standards,” Pistole said, “However, to preserve TSA as an effective, federal counterterrorism security network, SPP will not be expanded beyond the current 16 airports, unless a clear and substantial advantage to do so emerges in the future.”

TSA employees who feared losing their jobs to out-sourcing, are pleased with Pistole’s plan. But the decision doesn’t sit well with John Mica (R-Fla) who has been actively urging airports to “opt-out” of TSA-staffed screening. Mica just became chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and plans to launch an investigation into the matter.

Meanwhile, at Los Angeles International Airport, one of the airports considering the TSA ‘opt-out’ program, there was some good news about butterflies.

In addition to terminals and runways, there’s a 200-acre butterfly habitat at LAX designed to reintroduce and protect the coastal buckwheat plant, which is the only food the El Segundo Blue butterfly eats.

A seasonal field study and analysis of the butterfly was recently completed and it shows that, in 2010, the population of El Segundo Blue butterflies was somewhere between 111,000 and 116,000; and increase of about 30% over 2009.