Next to none of the nation’s 450 commercial airports were physically designed with security concerns in mind. A few new terminals, like DFW’s International Terminal, are examples that point the way to the future in terms of physical design to enhance security. Too many terminals today concentrate crowds in ticket lobbies adjacent to glass walls separated from motor vehicles by not much more than a sidewalk. That’s an inviting scenario for a terrorist with an IED.
Earlier this month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) unveiled its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the regulation of general aviation (GA) aircraft in the U.S. While TSA and DHS have been talking about the need for increased security measures for GA for several years, the reality of the NPRM is hitting the GA community hard (and it should be). To date, TSA regulates but a small portion of the GA community – roughly 650 operators. TSA’s proposed NPRM would increase the regulated community to roughly 10,000 operators. A 65% increase in regulated parties is obviously significant.
Let’s be clear – TSA screeners are not law enforcement officers. They are not certified inspectors. They do not require access to crime scenes and they are not equipped or trained to respond to law enforcement incidents. They only special access they require is to certain areas of airports – for which their TSA badge and credential provides them access.
One trembles to think where the former DHS Inspector General’s deep pockets end — particularly since the public would be paying for his spending binge — and common sense begins. Besides making airports an even greater misery than they already are in terms of waits, lines, crowds, screaming babies and tired angry travelers … would putting screeners at the entrances of airports prevent violence? September 11th was wrought with box cutters. What creativity could be brought to bear among the many stores and equipment located in airport terminals? Would the Starbucks employees need security clearances?
Last week’s arrest of 23 workers at O’Hare International Airport for allegedly using fraudulent airport security badges exposed continuing weaknesses in securing the border. This should not have happened in the post-9/11 environment where access to secure areas at our air and seaports was tightened through enhanced background checks and investigations of current and prospective employees.