Summary: How Safe Are You?
Reliability of Our Airline Security System as a Whole: There is very little chance we will be able to prevent or defend against the next 9/11.
It is difficult to conceive the size of the U.S. air transportation system. The U.S. commercial fleet numbers some 6000 airliners that fly 30,000 flights every single day. As you read this, roughly 5000 airliners are in the air above you. 700 million passengers will fly commercially this year. It is a system whose sheer size makes it impossible to secure. It is much easier to secure the ultimate terrorist objective – the eight-foot room that is the airliner cockpit.
After September 11th, a singular will to harden our country’s airline security system against terror attacks, resulted in quick, decisive action on the part of Congress and the Administration, working together, and ignoring politics, to protect the people of the United States. The Transportation Security Administration was created and charged with implementing a dramatically-improved, multi-layered security system.
- Unfortunately, government’s memory was short and the technology used to screen for weapons is inadequate for the task. Bureaucrats overseeing the TSA were, by any standard, inept, and more concerned with politics and power, than implementing true protection. Cost overruns, rampant overspending, missed deadlines and obvious missteps, pervaded the agency.
- The TSA had a tall task –and very little time to accomplish it – but the agency ignored frontline experts across the spectrum in implementing real security solutions, and also, the free resources of the first responders –the pilots, flight attendants and security experts – in carrying out its mandate. It also failed in oversight and management of its own people. The result is an overly bureaucratic agency that provides only the appearance of true security, while using the veil of “national security” to cover up its weaknesses.
The new “multilayered” airline security system is a sieve, in which none of the layers work. Even all of them together cannot hope to prevent the kind of rehearsed, coordinated, well-planned terrorist attack Al Qaeda is capable of. Our government has spent $12 billion on airline security and recent government reports have found we’re no safer than we were before.
The Congress, too, has failed to hold agencies and their managers to account for their performance since 9/11, and partisan politics has begun to interfere with security for the whole country. Measures to improve security have, too often “allowed” or “suggested” solutions, instead of mandating them, acceding to the desires of deep pocket lobbyists or the airline managements and other business interests. Even mandated changes, have taken far too long to implement and, in some cases, have been sabotaged by the very agencies tasked with overseeing them.
While some leaders in both houses of Congress have tried valiantly to reach across party lines to work honestly for our nation as a whole – among them Senators Bunning (R-KY), Boxer (D-CA), Burns (R-MT) and Schumer (D-NY), and Congressmen Wilson (R-SC) and Mica (R-FL), others seem to have forgotten what the morning of 9/11 was really like.
It will take incorruptible people in positions of power who recognize the urgency of defending against future terror attacks and the truly woeful lack of preparedness of our present air security system, and are steadfast and fearless enough to put aside partisanship and special interests for the security of our country, to make us safe from future attacks, and to provide for the American people, true airline security.
It will also take the concerted will of the country to hold them accountable to do so. Our failure to prevent future attacks will have devastating repercussions for American lives, our economy, our freedom and our collective futures.
If Al Qaeda conducts a well-organized, coordinated attack on our airline industry tomorrow, there is much too great a chance they will succeed.