TSA’s New Plan to Make Screening Less Efficient

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 checkpint 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.

A few bad apples who in no way undermine the hard work that thousands of men and women at the TSA do to keep us safe, day in and day out.

About Gary Leff

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 InsideFlyer.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. More About Gary »

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  1. His PreCheck comments were playing to the crowd. The Senate hates the managed inclusion program and introduced bills to ban the practice, he’s just telling them he’ll happily go along with it. It’s fine with my, I get my PreCheck via GE, so I’ll happily take the shorter lines that strict rules will provide.

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  3. A few years ago, the dental department in the local VA hospital had real problems with improper cleaning of dental tools. There was a temporary shut down, staff replaced and now dental tools come in sealed packages and are not clean on site. Given I don’t read or hear about these issues in the private sector, might we question whether government employees really care, whether they work for the VA or the TSA.

  4. How could we humiliate our guest more than putting them through TSA? My wife, a foreign national, stood in line for a bit less than an hour For her chance to explain why she had come to the U.S. and other questions. The line for Americans took but a few minutes. We missed our connection, but the TSA supervisor I thought to strangle blamed the airlines. It was Chicago and there were but three agents to work the hundreds of arrivals.

  5. The stuff they do find gets tossed in a nearby plastic can with OTHER DANGEROUS STUFF and it’s not even considered hazardous waste.

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