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Security staff numbers are expected to shrink at Missoula International Airport and other Montana airfields in the next few weeks.

Transportation Security Administration Missoula Director Mark Randol said Wednesday he didnít have a firm cutback number for Missoula or the other four airports in his jurisdiction. However, TSA is expected to cut 6,000 security agents nationwide by September. And preliminary reports indicated Montana would lose up to 84 of its 293 screeners.

A report on the TSA website shows Missoula is expected to lose 7 screeners, while Helena would drop 11 and Great Falls would lose 15. Randol would not confirm those numbers Wednesday.

"Weíre going to have to take people out of the airport, and one of the direct consequences is the lines will go up," Randol said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C. "Weíre going to have our fair share of the cuts like everybody else is. I donít want to throw a number out there. Weíre still in the middle of working on it. But the four airports in western Montana will be obliged to give up some of their staff."

Randol said a number should be available in the next couple of weeks.

In Billings, Hugh Ford, that region's TSA federal security director, said Billings Logan International and Glacier Park International at Kalispell each stand to lose as many as 23 jobs.

"We're just going to get leaner and meaner," Ford said, noting a reduction in the work force has been expected since new machines to help screen passengers and luggage were added at commercial airports. "We want to get more efficient with our manpower, because we are the keepers of the people's money."

TSA's recently announced a plan to trim 6,000 airport screening jobs nationwide, a move attributed in part to budget constraints. Half the jobs are expected to be cut by month's end; the rest would be gone by the end of September, the agency said. As of March 31, TSA employed 55,600 screeners.

By the end of May, TSA also plans to lift its requirement that law enforcement officers be posted at every checkpoint.

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