TSA struggles to fill vacant positions at Alaska’s airports

ANCHORAGE — The Transportation Security Administration says it’s having difficulty filling the open positions at more than a dozen airports across Alaska.

Several factors have been attributed to the TSA’s hiring challenges, including the rural locations of airports and Alaska’s high cost of living, The Alaska Dispatch News reported (http://bit.ly/1Q4Hvas).

As of Jan. 28, the agency had vacancies at Fairbanks, Anchorage, Cordova, Kodiak, Adak, Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, Barrow, Juneau, Wrangell, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka and Yakutat.

“I know there are other states that are considered hard-to-hire states where they have similar types of things,” said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers, citing North Dakota as an example. “But I think Alaska is the most concentrated in terms of airports and the number of opportunities here.”

The federal government’s official job site lists 21 TSA officer positions available in the state. But Dankers says the need is much higher as the agency looks to find new hires for the summer, Alaska’s busiest travel season.

“I will tell you, based on what I’ve seen, it’s much higher than that,” she said.

To deal with vacancies, the TSA has its own National Deployment Force. Officers are sent to airports on an as-needed basis to places “that require a greater number of security personnel than is available,” according to a TSA fact sheet.

The agency used the deployment force to supplement security at Alaska airports at an average cost of $4.1 million a year from fiscal years 2010 to 2015, the fact sheet states.

However, the goal is for Alaska to not have to rely on temporary officers, said Pete Duffy, assistant federal security director for screening in Alaska.

“We would rather have folks that are actually from those communities, or if not, at least a permanent party there because they become more ingrained in the communities,” Duffy said. “That’s an important part of security too is understanding the community.”

TSA officials say they have increased efforts to attract potential candidates by raising pay to account for Alaska’s cost of living and offering more full-time positions.

___

Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com

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