These are nervous days for the 72 screeners who go through bags at the Gulfport airport. The Transportation Safety Administration may tell 39 of the newly hired federal workers to pack their own bags and go home.
Pat Baroco oversees the screening staff at Gulfport Biloxi International Airport. "Ever since this came out that there was a chance some jobs would be lost," said Baroco, "they're all very much concerned where this is going to end up."
Baroco spoke for the staff about TSA's decision to eliminate more than half the screening jobs in Gulfport. "I really don't want to go thinking about that too much because it would result down here in particular in some delays that we certainly wouldn't want," he said.
Delays are something airport administrators don't want to go through again. As you might imagine, executives like assistant director Ken Spirito weren't too happy when they read TSA was slashing jobs to become more efficient and more effective. "Do the words shock and awe come to mind?" he asked.
Spirito was even more shocked when he found out the average airport would lose 12% of its screeners -- yet Gulfport would lose 56% of its staff.
"We've appealed to the TSA. And I'm confident those numbers will be changed. They have to change," Spirito said. "We have an operation, an efficient operation we have to keep. And we must maintain that level of efficiency somehow or another."
Otherwise Spirito fears passengers will run into longer lines at TSA baggage screening terminals.
The Gulfport airport should hear later this week if TSA will reconsider the number of baggage screening positions it eliminates.
A total of 240 airports around the country have been told they'll lose some baggage screeners.
The federal government took over airport security a year after the September 11th terrorist attacks.