Tester gets TSA to fork over $100,000 for Great Falls International Airport

Senator clears up confusion by going ‘straight to the top’

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is finally going to fork over more than $100,000 to Great Falls International Airport to help pay for security personnel after Senator Jon Tester went straight to the top to clear up some confusion.

Tester is a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.  He recently wrote a letter to TSA Administrator Edmund Hawley asking why the agency refused to reimburse Great Falls International for security officers under the federal Law Enforcement Officer Reimbursement Agreement Program.  The program, established after the 9/11 attacks, helps smaller community airports meet homeland security guidelines.

The TSA said it denied the Great Falls airport the funding since last October, saying the airport's armed security guards are "non-certified."  But Tester pointed out that the airport's security guards are licensed by the State of Montana, so it qualifies for federal funding under the TSA's own guidelines.

After receiving Tester's letter, the TSA agreed to give Great Falls Airport $105,904.75 to reimburse security costs incurred between October 1 of last year and September 30 of this year.

"These funds are crucial in our current budgetary needs to maintain the required level of security for this airport," said F. Edward Buttrey, chairman of the Great Falls International Airport Authority.  "Senator Tester's assistance was pivotal in retaining the reimbursement contract and we are grateful for his continuing insight and support."

"Sometimes it just takes good, open lines of communication to clear things up and get the ball rolling," Tester said.  "When you're talking about the security of Montana's airports, we just can't afford to let government red tape get in the way."

At Tester's request, TSA and Great Falls International Airport will work together to ensure that the airport continues to receive funding under the Law Enforcement Officer Reimbursement Agreement Program through September of 2012.