Security is high for the Sochi Olympics, but the TSA’s ban on toothpaste and other gels on flights to Russia is not so much a deterrent as it is an insurance policy against blame should something happen. Meanwhile, metal detectors will be in use at Major League Baseball stadiums come 2015. For both Sochi and U.S. baseball, I am worried we are creating bigger problems down the road in terms of public cynicism and policies that actually increase risk.
As 2014 begins, it is tempting to comment on trends and things one hopes will happen, or do not happen. A few things have occurred that have me thinking overtime on the latter – such as hesitancy to attend the Olympics given terrorism fears or TSA looking for marijuana from Colorado.
Paul Anthony Ciancia, the 23-year-old who shot TSA agents at LAX, made his first court appearance this month. Since the shooting, news outlets have reported on the attack itself, on Ciancia’s mental state and on methods for improving security. Yet, in the extensive coverage of the shooter’s actions, there is one word that is conspicuously and erroneously absent: terrorist.
For all the talk and clichés about a global market and a global economy, the talk and clichés have morphed into truth. How do we stack up in the United States? Not so good. We are hampered by our out-of-date approach to customs and immigration. Unless we make some changes, the United States will remain on the sidelines of a global hub system. And if you are not a hub, you are a spoke.
The TSO represents not only our last, but also our most vulnerable, line of defense against attacks on the aviation system. The shooting at LAX last week was an attack on the most public faces of our efforts to protect the homeland. Before the collective policy-making community proposes additional changes or federal mandates, they should lead the effort to change the focus and tenor by which they level criticism against TSA.
Just after 9 AM on Friday, November 1, a gunman walked up to a screening checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport and opened fire. The attack by Jason Anthony Ciancia, a 23-year-old New Jersey native living in Los Angeles, resulted in the first on-the-job death of a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer. The utility of attacking a critical point in the aviation system is enormous, and Ciancia’s attack is evidence of why securing the aviation domain is so important.
Five years ago, I could have written that CBP was the worst agency in the federal government, almost hopeless. It was not responsive to stakeholders, seemed resistant to doing business new ways, and was being starved of resources by Congress. Fortunately, recent leadership at CBP has been much more open to new thinking. Old policies and staffing models remain a frustration, but the attitude has changed for the better.
The Transportation Security Administration has made big strides in improving how they work with airports to secure passengers and cargo. Yet, the work is unfinished, and more needs to be done. Even as TSA becomes more risk-based in its approach, using better technology and communicating with airports, there remain several areas for improvement.
The Transportation Security Administration recently posted on its website a notice about some of the religious activities the traveling public may see in airports during the current Islamic holy month of Ramadan. This was a well-meaning effort from TSA, but it left me asking – who is making these decisions about communications to the public? There are some big problems with this notice to travelers.
Charles Kenny, a Fellow with the New America Foundation and the Center for Global Development, published an opinion piece in Bloomberg BusinessWeek called, “The Case for Abolishing the DHS.” He makes some powerfully accurate assessments on the return on investment from DHS, but as powerful as those arguments and examples may be, Kenny’s declaration that “closing the DHS is a small government solution that works” is a glass-is- half-empty summation that misses some important metrics.