ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - National Guard troops will pull out from their security duty at the nation's airports this month and be replaced by local police, government and airport officials said.
The federal Transportation Security Administration has told airport directors that the switch will occur March 26, the St. Petersburg Times reported for Wednesday's editions.
Police will patrol the airports until a federal police force is developed to permanently patrol airport security checkpoints, which could take a year or more.
The federal government will continue to pay for the airport security, said Louis Miller, executive director of Tampa International Airport.
Miller said his airport will need at least 20 officers to replace the Guard troops.
"We don't have anything like that available within our own department," Miller said. "We have 51 uniformed officers already spread thin all over the airport property. Making arrangements with the Hillsborough sheriff and the Tampa police takes time. They don't have a lot of extra personnel, either."
Airports with more checkpoints will need more officers. Kansas City International Airport, which has 20 checkpoints, and Dallas-Fort Worth, with 26 checkpoints, will require at least 100 officers each.
Al Lomax, chief of the airport police in Kansas City, said keeping Guard troops at airports may not be a solution.
"TSA is requiring us to maintain a police presence at the checkpoints beginning March 26, so even extending the Guard deployment doesn't fill the requirement because Guard members aren't police officers," Lomax said.
Nevertheless, Tampa airport officials, with concurrence from the international airports in Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Sarasota-Bradenton, asked the federal government Tuesday to postpone the Guard's pullout.
"We find the limited time to respond and the logistical issues involved to be significant and onerous," Ed Cooley, senior director of Tampa airport's operations, said in an e-mail to the Transportation Security Administration.
Requests for extensions will likely be determined on the state level because governors deploy Guard troops, said Paul Turk, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman in Washington.