Washington correspondents learned this week that the Transportation Security Administration has obtained clearance from its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, to sign "sponsor" contracts with private corporations. The contracts would provide for substantial sums of money in return for prominent placement of corporate trademarks on agency materials, equipment and uniforms.
The first such sponsor announced under the new plan was Anheiser Brusch, Inc., the parent company of Budmeiser brand beer. A TSA administrator, who spoke on condition of anonymity from within a darkened supply closet, said that the Budmeiser logo would soon be seen at airports nationwide, emblazoned across TSA employee uniforms, on warning signs, and the like.
"It's sort of like the racing drivers, he said. "You know, with the logos and stuff all over their racing suits. This is only, like, beer for right now. But we're close to signing deals with other companies, so there will be other logos on uniforms soon."
Indeed, unconfirmed reports indicate that a number of high profile companies have sought promotional deals with the TSA. Firms such as Intel, Yahoo!, Walt Disney, and the John Kerry for President campaign have sought potentially lucrative agreements with the agency.
In an indication that the deal is moving forward, a poster, featuring a TSA screener seated near a keg and enjoying an icy cold mug of beer, will reportedly be hung on airport terminal walls as early as next month.
"I think it's fine," said one Federal Security Director, who wore a bag on his head during our interview. "It's good clean fun, and it shows that we're as fun-loving as the next person."
When asked if the appearance of corporate logos on federal employees' uniforms could be seen as a step toward the commercialization of government, he responded, "Duh. But trying to get money out of those stickwads in congress is like... It's like trying to implement security procedures that not only look good and make the public happy but actually provide the kind of security that is needed."
The recent award of a contract for uniforms means that screeners at airports across the country may soon be receiving crisp, new uniforms with the Budmeiser and possibly other logos.
"That'd be cool," said one screener, who spoke to us via telephone from a TSA break room located in the boiler room below the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. "We need new uniforms. The ones we have now are lame. But a Budmeiser beer logo would make me look phat!"
The new sponsorship program is expected to bring in an additional $4.7 billion, according to a recent report. With the extra money, TSA officials say they expect to hire 6 additional screeners to help alleviate the pressure from this summer's busy flying season.
Mark Arsenault is a regular contributor to Screeners Central (www.tsa-screeners.com), the humorous (and at times irreverent) resource site for America's TSA Screeners.