WASHINGTON -- Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) secured an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill today that will repeal the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) exemption from federal contracting laws. The provision, cosponsored by Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), adds increased transparency and accountability while also helping to level the playing field for smaller firms who want to compete for contracts.

"America's safety and security has to be the number one priority. TSA has a long record of contract mismanagement, and they should no longer receive special treatment. Our safety and security are in their hands," said Kerry. "Washington shouldn't be fleecing American citizens to protect them. We need to put an end to multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts. My amendment will hold TSA to the same rules as every other federal agency and increase contracting opportunities for small businesses."

"The Department of Defense isn't exempt from contracting laws, and the TSA shouldn't be, either. The TSA can protect travelers without wasting tax dollars," said Senator Lautenberg.

Nearly every other federal agency, including the Department of Defense, must abide by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which includes the Competition in Contracting Act and the Small Business Act. Because of the urgent need for airport screening equipment in the aftermath of 9/11, the TSA was exempted from these regulations.

Yet over the last five years, TSA's contracting record has been harshly criticized by the agency's inspector general and the Government Accountability Office -- giving no justification for a permanent exemption from the FAR.

For instance, in 2003 Boeing received $82 million to cover $39 million in costs -- a 210 percent return -- for its "cost-plus-a-percentage" contract that it awarded in violation of federal law. In 2002, a contract awarded outside the normal process tripled to $3 billion after a computer networking company failed to complete the task and over-billed the government for 117,000 man hours. The TSA also allowed one contract to expand from $104 million to $741 million because they insisted on recruiting airport screeners in lavish hotels like the Waldorf-Astoria.

The Kerry-Snowe-Lautenberg amendment strikes the section of the U.S. Code that currently exempts TSA from the FAR and requires the agency to comply within 180 days.