TSA: 5.5 Billion Later and We're No Safer
Those long lines at airport security checkpoints and the billions we’ve spent on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) aren’t really doing a whole lot to make us safer. This is the point made by Anne Applebaum in her column today.
Test after test have shown that the federal screeners perform no better than did the private ones. That fact alone is enough reason to question exactly what the TSA's purpose is. But there’s more reasons to be annoyed.
There has also been a price to pay in waste...[TSA has spent] $350,000 for a gym, $500,000 for artwork and silk plants at the agency's new operations center, and $461,000 for its first-birthday party. More to the point, the agency has spent millions, even billions, on technology that is inappropriate or outdated.
Why again was it necessary to create another wasteful bureaucratic agency rather than regulate the pre-existing private companies? Well, Applebaum says:
[T]his isn't a country that has ever been good at risk analysis. If it were, we would never have invented the TSA at all. Instead, we would have taken that $5.5 billion [cost to create and fund the TSA], doubled the FBI's budget, and set up a questioning system that identifies potentially suspicious passengers, as the Israelis do. Even now, it's not too late to abolish the TSA, create a federal training program for airport screeners, and then let private companies worry about how many people to hire, which technology to buy and how long the tables in front of the X-ray machines should be (that last issue being featured in a recent government report). But every time that suggestion is made in Congress, someone denounces the plan as a "privatization" of our security and a sellout.
So, quite simply, having a federal agency take care of airport security makes us feel safer even if it’s not actually making us safer and is wasting millions of tax dollars. Obviously airport security is of paramount importance, but once again we are witnessing why government bureaucracies are not a magical solution
The long lines, the disrobing, the intrusive frisking—if it stops one attack, it’s worth it. But does the TSA have to be handling the screening? If they can’t train screeners any better than did private companies, why do they exist? It’s a questions we should be asking, but one I doubt our federal government will even think to address.