Daily Dose: Should Airport Screening Continue to be Privatized?

Orlando Sanford International Airport has received preliminary approval to use private security screeners to screen
passengers and personal property. It may now be one of the airports operating under the Screening Partnership Program, of which there are currently 16.

TSA Tentatively Okay’s Private Screeners in Orlando

Many Republicans are in support of the privatization of the screening workforce, as Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said “I hope this opens a new era of reform for TSA operations, not only at Orlando Sanford but across the nation.” He continued, “it’s critical that TSA get out of the business of running a huge bureaucracy and human resources operation and refocus its attention on security, analyzing intelligence, and setting the highest risk-based security standards. TSA needs to focus on going after terrorists — not little old ladies, veterans and children.”

American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage disagrees, having told Congress, “The mission of corporations is to make profits from the shareholders and that is in direct conflict with the single focused mission of air travel security for Americans.”

Also, check out my past, related Daily Dose, “House Hearing Criticizes Size and Scope of the TSA

Do you think that airport screening personnel should be privatized? Or do you agree with John Gage and believe this shouldn’t be a function of profit-driven corporations?


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Corey McCarren

I really don’t understand why some trust private contractors above government employees. Whether the screening is right or wrong is another issue, but if it’s being done, shouldn’t it be being done by government officials?

Henry Brown

Commentary on this issue from Bruce Schneier’s Blog
Rand Paul Takes on the TSA

Rand Paul has introduced legislation to rein in the TSA. There are two bills:

One bill would require that the mostly federalized program be turned over to private screeners and allow airports ­ with Department of Homeland Security approval ­ to select companies to handle the work.

This seems to be a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the economic incentives involved here, combined with a magical thinking that a market solution solves all. In airport screening, the passenger isn’t the customer. (Technically he is, but only indirectly.) The airline isn’t even the customer. The customer is the U.S. government, who is in the grip of an irrational fear of terrorism.

I too want to rein in the TSA, but the only way to do that is to change the TSA’s mission. And the only way to do that is to change the government that gives the TSA its mission. We need to refuse to be terrorized, and we need to elect non-terrorized legislators.

But that’s a long way off. In the near term, I’d like to see legislation that forces the TSA, the DHS, and anyone working in counterterrorism, to justify their systems, procedures, and expenditures with cost-benefit analyses.

This is me on that issue:

An even more meaningful response to any of these issues would be to perform a cost-benefit analysis. These sorts of analyses are standard, even with regard to rare risks, but the TSA (and, in fact, the whole Department of Homeland Security) has never conducted them on any of its programmes or technologies. It’s incredible but true: he TSA does not analyse whether the security measures it deploys are worth deploying. In 2010, the National Academies of Science wrote a pretty damning report on this topic.

Filling in where the TSA and the DHS have left a void, academics have performed some cost-benefit analyses on specific airline-security measures. The results are pretty much what you would expect: the security benefits of most post-9/11 security changes do not justify the costs.

More on security cost-benefit analyses here and here. It’s not going to magically dismantle the security-industrial complex, eliminate the culture of fear, or imbue our elected officials with common sense — but it’s a start.

Corey McCarren

The blogger you’ve referenced seems to get it. I simply don’t understand, it’s like there’s this misconception that government employees are inherently different — less trustworthy, lazier, worse at their jobs — than private sector employees. They’re made of the same flesh and blood, and if I don’t want one patting me down I sure as Hell don’t want the other doing it, either.