TSA’s Conflict Of Interest

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Reason Foundation’s director of transportation policy Robert Poole offers a compelling argument for reforming airline security. His argument focuses on the conflicts of interest faced by the Transportation Security Administration. Established after 9/11, the TSA is a federal agency having both the job of screening passengers and baggage at airports and the job of regulating airport and aviation security. In other words, the TSA regulates itself. Talk about a conflict of interest!

The Bush administration established the TSA following the terrorist attacks with the purpose of improving airport security. As Poole points out, the real problem with security at airports at the time was a matter of policy. Certain regulations allowed passengers to carry hazardous materials on board of the aircraft (box cutters, liquids, etc.). Further, passenger history and law enforcement information was overlooked. Regulation was the real flaw of the system, rather than the quality of airport security.

There wasn’t, and isn’t, a need for one cohesive federal agency that both regulates and controls airport security. Poole recommends that the TSA continue establishing guidelines for airport security. However, each airport should be in charge of carrying out its security measures. This would allow airports to privatize airline security, which would lead to significant cost savings without compromising quality.

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  • Patrick Ahlstrom

    The TSA only regulates the remaining air carrier and airline security regulations. The IG and GAO look at the quality of TSA’s security including over 1.5 million passengers per day. It is not wholly accurate to say that TSA regulates itself. Now if the private sector had security again, it could save money if the standards were high and the private sector invested in quality personnel, training, testing, progressing, R&D. Before they looked at it an a cost center, paid miniimum wage, trained very little, had 300% turnover, very effectively resisted higher standards politically, because it would cost them more. What would change if they had it again, since all private sector enegy must push the company to the bottom line, wouldn’t it constantly want to achieve lower cost/less effort for security? I don’t think they want the headache again either and would need large incentives(as in reliable stream of profits) to take on security again. There go the savings.

  • Ray Sharradh

    Are you kidding me? Pre-9/11 was a policy problem with box cutters being allowed? If someone tried hijacking a plane with a boxcutter today, they’d be beaten seven ways from Sunday by 10-20 angry passengers. And did any of you actually interact with the old contract screeners? There were MANY of them who couldn’t even speak the English lanuage. And when the old contract companies paid their employees, many would call in sick (20-50%) in the days after payday – “I have money. Why do I need to go to work?” Put each airport in charge of carrying out its own security procedures? Wow. And you think passengers complain about inconsistent security procedures at various airports NOW.