Friday, August 04, 2006

Here we go again

The recently released Heritage Foundation report suggesting that TSA get out of the business of trying to secure airports itself and instead simply set policy for the private sector to follow, conduct periodic tests to evaluate compliance with such policies, and provide money to fund airports' security programs should be filed under "BeenThere/Done That." Security was left up to airports and airlines before 9/11, of course, and we got underpaid, undertrained, unmotivated sceeners as a result.

The authors are right to say that, since creating TSA and federalizing airport security, we've spent oodles of money with relatively little to show for it in terms of increased security. Investigation after investigation continues to show that screeners are not better at spotting concealed deadly weapons today than they were five years ago. But, the remedy is not going back to a privatized airport security regime.

The answer is forcing TSA to get serious about rigorously training screeners and holding them and their supervisors accountable when performance consistently fails to measure up. And, technologies like backscatter machines that can invariably spot weapons hidden under clothing and "puffer" machines that can detect trace explosives on passengers should move beyond the pilot stage and be deployed at every checkpoint and every airport in the nation.

Einstein was right when he famously said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Going back to a privatized airport security regime would, indeed, be insane.