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Chambliss working toward compromise on TSA cuts

ATLANTA - U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss said he has been meeting with the Transportation Security Administration and is working on a compromise over its plan to cut more than 300 security screeners at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

After a meeting Tuesday with officials including airport general manager Ben DeCosta and Jim Blair, acting chief operating officer of the TSA, Chambliss said there was a lot left to be done.

''While I remain committed to ensuring that Hartsfield-Jackson remains an economic engine of the Southeast and all passengers can continue to travel safely with the least wait time possible, I am eager to learn more about the plans for better efficiency from TSA,'' the Georgia Republican said in a statement.

After a tour of the airport Monday, Chambliss said the TSA's current plan to reduce screeners is ''simply unacceptable.''

Travelers at the airport should not have to stand in line for more than 20 minutes during peak times, Chambliss said. In July, wait times often lasted 40 minutes or more.

The TSA says it can increase efficiency at the Atlanta airport and will hire more part-time workers. But the agency has had trouble hiring part-timers in the past, airport general manager Ben DeCosta said.

The airport saw more than 7.7 million passengers in May - higher than the predicted 7.6 million - and more than 8 million in June. Unless the TSA ends its hiring freeze in Atlanta, DeCosta has warned the airport will not be fully staffed for Labor Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas.

TSA spokesman Christopher White said the number of airport screeners topped out at 1,400 last spring, and that over the next few months the TSA expects to reduce that to 1,061 through attrition.

The cuts are part of a broad staffing adjustment at many airports. Some of the airports will end up with more staff than before, and others with less as the agency tries to work within a congressionally mandated employment ceiling.