Several years ago, I met a woman who said there could never be enough security, and it did not matter to her what it cost. She went so far as to say that she did not care whether she was groped while going through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints. I replied that I did not want to see our country look like something out of World War II. We decided to disagree.
Much ink has been spilled over the balance between security and personal privacy. Most of us do not want a police state, but in this dynamic threat environment, we simply cannot afford to let our guard down. When it comes to immigration, I began thinking about where our national security apparatus could do a better job of things. Growing the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program Global Entry even more is one way to get there.
Global Entry allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. It provides an improved passenger experience while enhancing security and increasing system-wide efficiency. Applicants must undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment. The goal is to provide as good or better security while speeding travelers through the entry process. (Members may still be selected for further examination when entering the United States, and any violation of the program’s terms and conditions will result in the appropriate enforcement action and termination of the traveler’s membership privileges.)
Why should all eligible travelers sign up? A few reasons. First, it decreases wait times for processing into the United States by an average 70% (an oft-cited figure I calculated in one of my first analyses of Global Entry’s economic benefits). You might still end up waiting for your bag on the carousel, but it beats the 20 to 60 minutes you’ll waste standing in the non-Global Entry line. Time equals money, so Global Entry is good for the bottom line.
Meanwhile, joining Global Entry contributes to the important security efforts taking place around the world. We all have a vested interest in ensuring safety and security. Those who are interviewed, fingerprinted and granted Global Entry status can be safely ushered past immigration lines, reducing the volume of non-screened travelers and thus focusing limited resources on the greatest potential threat (i.e., risk-based security).
Perhaps the least valuable but most compelling aspect to Global Entry, however, is that members enjoy a measure of prestige. Strolling past long lines of tired travelers, touching a fingerprint scanner briefly, travelers can embrace a sense of elitism, something the traveling executive class would enjoy. I have heard many people at parties boast about how they were members of Global Entry.
Of course, the traveling public won’t know about these benefits if CBP doesn’t do a better job of telling them. Here’s where we are missing the boat—or plane, as it were. CBP has an effective process, and there are cascading benefits for all stakeholders (except the bad guys). Now CBP needs to close the gap with a more thoughtful, strategic campaign that explains these important benefits and effectively persuades more people to engage the program.
Our government does not know how to market things very well. We need to change our mentality and strategy when it comes to Global Entry. This is an easy win for homeland security.