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Two Approaches to Treating Frequent International Flyers at Homeland Security

The Wall Street Journal published a fascinating story on November 4, 2010 about the success of the US Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program in helping international frequent flyers speed their way through checkpoints at Dulles and 19 other busy airports.

The program costs $100 and requires participants to provide a background check and fingerprinting in advance. In exchange, travelers can use a kiosk to clear the customs process at Dulles in an average of 64 seconds compared with the average time of 60 minutes. As a frequent international traveler, I know first-hand how valuable this can be and I’m sure many people will take advantage of this program. I especially enjoyed this quote from Peter Hughes, an investment banker who travels frequently, “You get a receipt and get out. . . You’d be amazed the U.S. Government is doing something so simple.” Participants in the Global Entry program may still be subject to random, secondary inspections but, according to a Washington attorney who went through this process, “I think (the Global Entry program is) great,” and the secondary inspection seems like “an appropriate way to verify (compliance.”

Customs considers Global Entry to be a success and is expanding the program to include arrangements with other airports around the world.

In contrast, the article describes how the Transportation Security Administration, like Customs, another agency at the Department of Homeland Security, has resisted calls for speeding up the security process to make the process friendlier for frequent travelers. According to the article, “. . . the agency has argued that some terrorists might be able to pass back-ground checks and that it wouldn’t be safe to have lower-level screening for hundreds of thousands of travelers.” Under this approach, everyone is vetted through the same security process to try to screen out possible terrorists.

OK there you have it. All you GovLoop, frequent international flyers out there, where do you stand on the debate of whether the government should have a two-tiered system to have one level of checks for low risk travelers and focus resources on others who might be a threat or to treat everyone the same?

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