TSA Is Broken – And They Know It

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Former TSA administrator, Kip Hawley, wrote a piece in the Wall Street journal admiting the

airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect.

He goes on to mention that if you are a frequent flyer, you probably hate the TSA.

But he offers five suggestions on how to fix the problem.

1. No more banned items:

Aside from obvious weapons capable of fast, multiple killings—such as guns, toxins and explosive devices—it is time to end the TSA’s use of well-trained security officers as kindergarten teachers to millions of passengers a day. The list of banned items has created an “Easter-egg hunt” mentality at the TSA. Worse, banning certain items gives terrorists a complete list of what not to use in their next attack. Lighters are banned? The next attack will use an electric trigger.

2. Allow all liquids:

Simple checkpoint signage, a small software update and some traffic management are all that stand between you and bringing all your liquids on every U.S. flight. Really.

3. Give TSA officers more flexibility and rewards for initiative, and hold them accountable:

No security agency on earth has the experience and pattern-recognition skills of TSA officers. We need to leverage that ability. TSA officers should have more discretion to interact with passengers and to work in looser teams throughout airports. And TSA’s leaders must be prepared to support initiative even when officers make mistakes. Currently, independence on the ground is more likely to lead to discipline than reward.

4. Eliminate baggage fees:

Much of the pain at TSA checkpoints these days can be attributed to passengers overstuffing their carry-on luggage to avoid baggage fees. The airlines had their reasons for implementing these fees, but the result has been a checkpoint nightmare. Airlines might increase ticket prices slightly to compensate for the lost revenue, but the main impact would be that checkpoint screening for everybody will be faster and safer.

5. Randomize security:

Predictability is deadly. Banned-item lists, rigid protocols—if terrorists know what to expect at the airport, they have a greater chance of evading our system.

So there you have it, straight from the horses mouth the guy who led the TSA, the TSA is broken and needs to be fixed.

What do you think of his five steps to fix the security screening process? I doubt we’ll see baggage fees go away anytime soon but the other suggestions have merit.

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The Weekly Flyer writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way.

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  1. Mr. Hawley is right. However, he left out another important consideration, probably in an effort to remain PC: Pay a LOT more attention to who TSA hires in the first place. They need a staff of mature, educated professionals at their screening points, not welfare queens given a badge and who hold some grudge against those who wish to (and can) fly. Those mamas on the first power trip of the lives are not an asses to TSA and they damn sure don’t enhance our security and safety of flight. In addition to some major revisions of basic policy, the TSA needs a deep house cleaning!

  2. He has some great recommendations, unfortunately the fact that he’s formerly of the TSA speaks to whether the agency is capable of changing.

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