The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) most recent decision regarding the prohibited items list has drawn the ire of some in the Congress, as well as the flying public. Critics argue any vulnerability is unacceptable, but from TSA’s risk-based perspective, there are other aviation stakeholders who shoulder the safety responsibility. Recognizing that most people, even those with knives, do not run around stabbing others, from whom does non-explosive threat largely stem? In short, drunks on planes.
The sequester has nearly arrived with little sign officials in Washington will reach an agreement to amend the billions in spending cuts. While both sides of the aisle have speculated on how these cuts will impact the U.S. economy, TSA Administrator John Pistole recently testified about how the sequester will impact airport security, echoing a warning from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that security lines at airports will grow longer post-sequester. Yet, the length of airport security lines are a result of TSA’s screening methodology, not its budget and staff.
In the old adage, “the only constant is change,” the word “change” could very easily be substituted with: “Congressional excoriation of TSA.” As the 112th Congress drew to a close, I imagine some at the Transportation Security Administration – those who have been there since the beginning – anticipated an end. Not of the Mayan variety, but of the Mica variety. Congressman John Mica may have finished his term as Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, but sorry TSA, this may only be the beginning again.
In the logistics business, there is little tolerance for uncertainty. The supply chain, from the producer to the consumer, must be finely tuned so goods arrive at the right destination within tight time frames. TSA rules, particularly security procedures for processing cargo transported by air, can dramatically affect supply chain performance. Yet, there are no TSA enforcement guidelines detailing the agency’s discretion in enforcing noncompliance with air cargo security rules.
Congratulations are in order for the amazing success recently achieved by CBP’s Office of Air and Marine. CBP plans to award a sole source contract to General Atomics to buy up to 14 Predator UAVs, at a potential cost of $443,090,000 over a 60-month period. So, congratulations to CBP. While the rest of the DHS mission will be subject to budget cuts amid the sequestration debate, and seemingly without concern for those personnel who will be laid off, CBP is telling the rest of us we can be comfortable knowing that giant drones will be patrolling the skies above the U.S. borders for up to 20 hours at a time at the mere cost of $3,500 per hour.
Like most Americans, I found the news this weekend of the passing of Neil Armstrong saddening. An immensely private man, Armstrong’s accomplishments are the stuff of jaw-dropping legends. Yet, I was disappointed as I drove into Washington this morning, noticing that none of the U.S. flags were at half-staff. Here’s a guy who took our flag and planted it on the surface of the Moon, and now we’ve forgotten him by ignoring the very simple honor of flying the flag at half staff.
The Aspen Institute’s Security Forum, held at the end of July, proved why it has become, in only three years, a “must-attend” event for those of us working in the homeland and national security space. The four-day program was packed with insight from leading thinkers and past and present policy makers and influencers on the subject of national and homeland security. There was not a single bad panel, but three sessions stood out in my mind as being a slight cut above the rest.
I’ve been writing about the use Predator UAVs and their exorbitant cost for some time. It would seem there are many far better (and far cheaper) ways to patrol U.S. borders and other areas from above. The Center for Investigative Reporting has taken note and recently cited one of my posts in their article, “At U.S. border, expensive drones generate lots of buzz, few results.”
In 2007, Congress passed a mandate to screen all cargo on passenger planes. It was an enormous demand of industry and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), one that shows a clear lack of understanding for real-world issues like business models and a functioning supply chain. Five years later, TSA and industry are still working to meet an unrealistic mandate. Put bluntly, 100 percent screening was a stupid idea that has not made America more secure.
The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security held a hearing today: “TSA’s Efforts to Fix Its Poor Customer Service Reputation and Become a Leaner, Smarter Agency.” The sole witness was TSA Administrator John Pistole. Subcommittee Chairman Rogers lectured Administrator Pistole – yes, lectured him – about TSA’s terrible public image. Since when does Congress have the temerity to lecture anyone, much less an agency that Congress itself created on how to improve its poor reputation?