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David J. Danto

 

 

Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion

 

 

 

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The Sun Is Bright, Ice Is Cold, & The TSA Is Useless

 

A report came out this morning detailing that the TSA missed test weapons and explosives at airport checkpoints about 80% of the time.  This is – if you recall – two years after a similar undercover study showed that they failed to catch the test items 95% of the time.   Two years later – and after significant promises to fix the problems—it’s only 15% better.  What we need here is an intervention from Captain Obvious – this process isn’t working.

When the last report came out I (and others) wrote about what we saw every day while traveling.  The TSA is a disorganized group of individuals that don’t seem to follow any set of rules.  Day to day, location to location, they seem to do whatever they feel like, making up and/or ignoring rules and procedures as they go, and obviously representing a huge risk to the traveling public’s security.  The hope of those in charge seems to be that if they hassle people enough it will create the illusion of security.  It doesn’t.  We all know the truth now.  After two years to get their act together, this team, process and system is not significantly different from when it was tested two years ago.  It’s irreparably broken. 

What needs to be admitted now is that sometimes organizations just can’t be fixed – they need to be replaced.  No amount of Band-Aids, new supervision or additional training will do a thing for a system that is this fundamentally flawed.  It’s time to – if you can forgive the bad pun – drop a bomb on it and start all over.

What would a new airport screening process and organization look like? 

·       The organization would identify a class of traveler that is a non-terrorist, non-threat.  This would be achieved via a voluntary, thorough background check (resembling Global Entry more than it does the current Pre-Check.) 

·       The organization would have a standard, expedited procedure for screening these individuals at every airport, at every entrance, at all times the airport is open.  This reliable, accessible everywhere and all the time service would garner enough interest and enough paid subscriptions to generate a significant amount of revenue - enough to offset any costs.

·       This organization would trash the existing, primarily useless scanning equipment purchased under questionable contracts and implement scanning stations that actually work.  AI and automatic chemical “sniffing” would be used for the first level of carry-on screening, speeding the process up and making it more reliable (than a display being stared-at by an exhausted and/or bored individual.)  Agents would be used for any secondary screening flagged by the AI system.  Again, this only works if the background checked traveler never has to wait in the same line as those who haven’t been pre-cleared.  This keeps waits lower for many, incentivizes travelers to get their backgrounds checked, and minimizes the workload for screeners that need to perform the extra vetting. 

·       The organization would have a central management structure that ensures all procedures are universally applied.  It’s perfectly OK for a process to be changed due to an emerging threat, but then that process must be universally applied at all locations simultaneously, not at the whim or staffing of the local team.

·       The organization would require screeners to pass a rigorous test themselves.  They would need to be more intelligent and poised than your average fast-food clerk, and they should then be compensated far-better than your average fast-food clerk.  As we frequent travelers have learned over and over again, an organization is only as good as the quality of its front line, customer facing people.  This new organization must fundamentally acknowledge that the traveling public are its customers, not evil sheep to be herded through gates, insulted and hassled.

Will any of this happen?  In today’s world – where we’re all thankful a moron hasn’t started a nuclear war every day – probably not.  But eventually, we will have to acknowledge the TSA is just a joke and do something about it.  I just pray it won’t take another disaster in air-travel to prove the point.

 

This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.

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