Seizing on the spirit of change spreading around the globe, the U.S. Travel Association recently issued its recommendations for overhauling the security screening experience for passengers in a report titled “A Better Way.” Improvements to our aviation security need few new ideas. Rather, as the report implies, wholesale change requires intrepid leadership.
The uproar or apparent uproar of scores or maybe even several hundred travelers, several of whom may have actually visited a TSA checkpoint recently, has refocused media attention on full body scanners. Those worried that TSA really wants to see or feel their junk should take pause. The narcissistic paranoia gripping the country, fueled by cable news, has distracted us from the reasons for the more thorough screening. Finding new, creative ways to deliver opinions helps to cut through the noise and get noticed. Animated bears – or dogs, I can’t tell – seems to be the latest fad. All the kids are doing it. Now for something completely different here is an attempted defense of TSA in animated form. Enjoy.
Reports are that the air cargo industry is nervous about regulatory or legislative responses to the recent terrorist attempt to send package bombs to the United States on cargo aircraft. It should be. Reactionaries in Washington don’t rest. Recent quotes from legislators suggest that the provisions of the Air Cargo Security Act of 2010, as with current mandates, should be enforced globally for cargo-only aircraft. Federalizing the security of the supply chain serves as blunt instrument, a reactionary’s tool of choice, to the problem.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released its review of the Transportation Security Administration’s Air Cargo Screening program. The report, requested by several members of Congress, audits the TSA’s program for achieving the Congressional mandate to screen 100 percent of all cargo carried on passenger aircraft by August 2010. For anyone in the business or closely following the issue, the report offers no surprises. If anything, it illuminates the major hurdles TSA continues to face in achieving the 100 percent screening threshold.
A couple weeks ago, air cargo industry representatives came together in Washington, DC, to hold an informational roundtable on the upcoming Congressional deadline mandating that 100 percent of all cargo carried on passenger aircraft be screened for explosives. Talking with the aviation security leaders who participated in the roundtable, we delivered the message that time is of the essence, and over 10,000 people logged on to view the webcast. TSA has seen applications for CCSP quadruple over the last month, and industry participation will determine the viability of the voluntary CCSP. But if industry fails or refuses to participate, it can expect a boot on its throat in the not too distant future.
Noticeably absent from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Future of Aviation Advisory Committee’s roster is an aviation security representative. An omission of a security expert fails to heed the lessons learned after 9/11, the most catastrophic human and economic event in aviation history. The committee will certainly discuss security, but without a security expert on the Advisory Committee, reasonable, necessary security solutions are likely to be overlooked.
The Department of Homeland Security released new international aviation security directives. In Washington, a Friday (especially Good Friday) release always raises red flags. Even more curious, the press statement also announced the release of a “Surface Transportation Security Assessment.” Why the two initiatives were released at the same time is baffling. With most of the country’s attention on how the Administration is improving international security screening protocols, this announcement is a bit like hearing from your doctor that he’s found a cure for your cancer and your athlete’s foot too.
Following the predictable Washington post-disaster pattern of shock, outrage, finger-pointing and sacrificial head-rolling, we are accelerating quickly past finger-pointing and onto the guillotine less than two weeks after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab lit his pants on fire aboard Detroit-bound Northwest Flight 253. Most people assume that the airport screening layer in the system failed on Christmas Day, probably because that is the most visible part of our security system. But that assumption overlooks a layered system that now mitigates most threats.
Never one to pass up sticking my nose in the middle of an argument I can’t resist commenting on fellow bloggers Stewart Baker’s, David Olive’s and Sam Rosenfeld’s posts. Continuing the “questions” theme, policy musing and debates, like Stewart and David’s, are necessary for oversight committees and policy staff. What we haven’t solved are the less glamorous logistical problems, the unpopular questions about risk, and the truth about what technology can or can’t do for us. These are issues that need to be solved or answered before realizing a robust security system.