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Is TSA mission impossible? Insights from their former administrator Kip Hawley

Since 2001 the Transportation Security Administration has had an almost impossible job — protect the 2 million people who fly in an out of US airports.


But how effective is this beleaguered agency, and is it really keeping us safe from terrorism?


Kip Hawley is the former TSA administrator and the author of a new book,
 Permanent Emergency.


He sat down with Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program for an extended conversation about the agency.

He told Chris why he thinks TSA could be headed for disaster.








“I fear going forward that the current TSA model can’t be sustained. Their biggest problems is their approach to risk management,” Hawley said.


  • Administrators have no means or opportunity to re-allocate its resources
  • Need to get rid of the prohibited items list.
“If there is a real terrorist threat the public will comply with anything TSA asks them to do. But, in return TSA has to pull out those measures that are no longer needed as quickly as possible,” Hawley said.


“The way to asses risk effectively is through networks. The most effective security is working with the group, the airports, the airlines and the FAA, not just beefing up the TSA,” Hawley said.


Hawley’s View of TSA

Betting on Chaos -
The complexity theory is an excellent framework for understanding the total TSA security strategy. You can not control every single interaction. So you give yourself the tools for how to control the network. For example you are far better off with a canine unit patrolling airports than trying to track a package from its origin.


Intel Side of TSA – They have the ability to analyze the data. They can take the data and produce different scenarios. They always warn don’t fall in love with the scenario you think they are going to use.

Transparency – Transparency and accountability are far more important than controlling what’s out there. You also have to be credible. No one is buying spin anymore. So TSA needs to say, we screwed up and here’s how we are going to fix it.


Idea Factory – Asked employees for their ideas. Agencies are very vertical when it come to communication. The goal was to make ti a more horizontal organization. In order for the network to work you need to work laterly. The TSO in LA needs to talk to the TSO in Texas etc.
The idea factor took off like a flame to gasoline.

Public Image – TSA’s mission is the same one it had in the wake of September 11th and it isn’t any less important. In order for TSA to be successful they have to
 have guts and get going.

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