The top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee wants the Obama administration to halt privatization of airport security screening operations until the costs and any benefits can be determined.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said a Government Accountability Office report “shows that under the current system, it is impossible to accurately measure any system cost-savings or efficiencies by moving to the SPP [Screening Partnership Program] model.” He urged John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, “to refrain from approving additional SPP airports until the costs and possible benefits can be accurately assessed and we can more closely monitor the program.”

Through the Screening Partnership Program, airports can apply to the TSA to use privately employed security screeners instead of those working for the federal government. Most of the 16 airports that use private screeners are small, community-based facilities. Six others are in the process of converting to private screeners.

Pistole did not have any comment on Thompson’s request. The agency, however, said it “will produce semi-annual reports evaluating SPP airport performance against the performance of TSA as a whole.”

Privatizing more of the TSA workforce has been an ongoing objective of House Republicans.

In response to a GAO statement that “TSA has not issued guidance to assist airports with completing [SPP] applications and information on how the agency will assess them,” Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Homeland Security transportation subcommittee, said: “TSA continues to undermine the SPP and the use of private sector screeners at airports. As a result, TSA remains bogged down in managing a bloated federal workforce that lacks customer-oriented solutions to security, which the private sector is better suited to develop and implement.”

USPS early-out savings?

The U.S. Postal Service plan to reduce expenditures by offering retirement incentives demonstrates that USPS officials are looking everywhere they can to save a few bucks.

But that’s all they will save through the early-out program offered to American Postal Worker Union (APWU) members.

If 20,000 workers accept the offer, the Postal Service says it will save about $630 million this fiscal year. About 25,500 have taken the retirement incentives, according to APWU, so the final dollar figure should be higher.

But, as postal officials realize, the number would have be a lot higher to make a significant difference for an agency that lost $15.9 billion in fiscal 2012.

“To really save the Postal Service, Congress has to get rid of the requirement to prefund retiree health benefits,” said APWU spokeswoman Sally Davidow. “That’s what’s killing the Postal Service.”

Under the incentive program, eligible full-time employees who voluntarily retire or resign will get $15,000 in two payments; $10,000 on May 24, 2013, and $5,000 on May 23, 2014. The deadline for taking the offer was Dec. 3; most of those employees will leave by Jan. 31, 2013. Part-timers and a relatively small number of other full-timers have until Jan. 4 to sign up; they would leave the Postal Service on Feb. 28.

Since 2000, the Postal Service has cut the number of career employees by one-third, from 787,538 to 524,000.

Gage’s outgoing gift

John Gage is gone as president of the American Federation of Government Employees, but not forgotten.

Certainly not by Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC). Gage, who did not run for reelection, decided that donations to CSAAC would be better than a rubber chicken dinner to honor his work.

So far, about $70,000 has been collected.

“I was really pleased,” Gage said, adding that the amount collected from individuals and AFGE locals “was much more” than he expected.

Gage said he chose CSAAC because his son, Patrick McGillicuddy, 21, is a residential client of CSAAC.

According to CSAAC’s Web site , the organization’s mission is “to enable individuals with autism to reach their highest potential and contribute as confident individuals to their community.” It provides programs for individuals from early childhood through retirement.

“It’s a really unique charity,” Gage said.

Ian Paregol, CSAAC’s executive director, declined to comment through a spokeswoman, because he wanted the news to be released first in the organization’s newsletter.

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at