Want to cut government spending? Without compromising security? The Ryan budget is a good start, but we can do more.
How about rethinking the Transportation Security Administration? We need TSA. After all, terrorists continue to target commercial aviation in the U.S. But, do we really need a massive, bloated bureaucracy and an army of government gropers tossing through our trousers and luggage?
With a budget bigger than the FBI, it’s time to seriously rethink whether TSA is giving us the biggest bang for our security buck.
One key finding from a comprehensive assessment of homeland security last year was to redefine the mission of the Transportation Security Administration. The recommendation was that the agency shift from providing airport security to making aviation security policy and regulations. Screening responsibility would devolve to the airports, whose security operations would be supervised by a federal security director.
Unfortunately, TSA is starting to look less like a security operation and more like just another entrenched bureaucracy. Earlier this month, members of Congress took the agency to task for dragging its feet on letting airports opt out of using government screeners. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last year reported that U.S. taxpayers would save “$1 billion over five years if the Nation’s top 35 airports operated as efficiently as [San Francisco International Airport] does under the SPP model.” A 2007 independent assessment found that “SPP airports’ overall performance results are equal to or better than those delivered by non-SPP.”
To add inefficiency to waste, President Obama’s proposed budget would slash funding for the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program by 50 percent. The FFDO program allows TSA to deputize commercial pilots as federal law enforcement officers. FFDOs are estimated to be able to cover five times as many flights as Federal Air Marshals, providing a strong added layer of defense and deterrence against the threat of terrorism and air piracy—at a cost of about $15 a flight. Gutting this cost-effective program makes no sense. No wonder some pilots are not flying friendly in the skies.
When it comes to air travel security, the administration still opts for the most costly, big-government approaches over far more cost-effective security options. Taxpayers and passengers deserve better.