By Gary Leff, View From The Wing, June 14, 2015 – Earlier in the month when it was revealed that a government study found the TSA was failing to detect 95% of bombs and weapons, and I predicted (and feared) this would mean a crackdown at the checkpoint and limitations on the PreCheck program.
My fear is that the bureaucratic response of do something will be the natural path here. If the TSA isn’t working, it needs to crack down. We’ll need to redouble our efforts to win the War on Water. We need to be more skeptical of relaxed screening through the PreCheck program. Every rule must be 100% enforced, 100% of the time. Instead of looking for bombs, then, they’ll be taking away scissors. This will make the TSA less effective rather than more effective, because their attentions will be diverted from real threats. But they will look like they are doing something. And of course they’ll make the case for more funding, as though we should always reward failure with more resources.
Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger has been nominated to head the TSA. He has cleared a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee (Senate jurisdiction can be odd…), will next clear the Homeland Security Committee, and then he’ll be voted on by the full Senate.
He says TSA needs to become more inefficient in order to address the fact that the agency isn’t very effective. Really.
The admiral said the TSA’s primary mission is security, though it must take into account the need to get passengers through airports quickly. But dealing with the problems exposed by the inspector general could tip the balance back toward stiffer security, he said.
“There may be a need to introduce some inefficiencies to address the recent findings of the inspector general,” he said.
…And he vowed to revisit the precheck programs that speed some passengers’ access to the secure areas of airports, saying that he supports the idea in concept but wants to make sure only the right people are being granted that benefit.
If we believe that the ‘standard’ screening route is effective (though that’s precisely what the government study called into question) then the TSA’s “managed inclusion” program to assign PreCheck to passengers that agents feel in their gut aren’t a threat based on momentary observation in the terminal is problematic.
The TSA’s behavior detection program isn’t based in science. And even if it was, their staff do not receive sufficient training to implement it effectively. So having employees pulling passengers at random for less screening is questionable — if more screening meant more safety rather than greater security theater. We know, though, that it doesn’t.
But the nominee to head TSA will do something. And I can already anticipate the call for more funding, since in his testimony he blames failures on equipment rather than staff. Therefore they’ll need new equipment. And they’ll need more staff, to maintain it and to train staff to better use it.
Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the “World’s Top Travel Experts” by Conde’ Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty.