EIC Column: terrible truths haunt TSA

Why me? That is a question I ask myself when time after time I am randomly selected for a frisking at the hand of a Transportation Security Administration agent. What is the deciding factor that distinguishes who of the over 1.7 million Americans who board domestic flights in the United States each day? TSA is an ineffective waste of people’s time and is in urgent need of change. For something as invasive to one’s personal space as being touched all over by a total stranger there should be a very good reason and TSA is not one.

Does TSA need renovations?

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With school trips to Toronto, San Francisco and New York some Stillwater students are getting a taste of the airport security for the first time. Arriving at the airport over an hour early to get through security is ridiculous. The college search for juniors will be starting soon and flying will be the easiest way to visit colleges outside the immediate area and with security at airports at an all time high, TSA will be a new reality for them.

TSA was created by former President George H.W. Bush post Sept. 11, 2001. TSA actually covers more than just airport security, most of their resources and infamy comes from their role in airport security. After the attacks, the international commercial aviation industry came to a standstill. Since then, there is no definite evidence that TSA has ever stopped a terrorist attack in the United States.

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With the largest aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, and airline in world, Delta, the drop in commercial aviation could have hurt the U.S. economy if nothing was done. To regain the confidence of customers, the U.S. government created TSA to look imposing and intimidating to ward off potential attacks. The implementation of TSA was sloppy and rushed. The immediacy of the implementation caused a quantity over quality situation where the government hired as many people as possible.

TSA is a government run and funded entity. According to TSA their budget of $7.6 billion for 2018 is set to rise by another $100 million for 2019. Every penny is paid by the tax payer, a large portion of which are not frequent fliers. The deregulation of the American aviation industry with the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 was revolutionary.

Before the government set the fare prices and where airlines could fly. Afterwards, the free market is driven with with supply and demand so ticket prices dropped and new destinations were created. The government is not efficient, nor does it try to be. Bureaucracy and budget cuts impedes the ability for an organization like TSA to be as effective as a private company who is naturally efficient in the pursuit of profits.

As recently as November 2017 a nationwide audit by the United States Department of Homeland Security revealed that TSA had failed 80 percent of the time in the detection of illegal substances and objects during screening. The goal of TSA is to check each person and piece of baggage who is trying to board a flight. According to the Federal Administration of Aviation (FAA) over 2.5 million passengers depart and arrive in United States daily. That is too much volume for TSA.

Technology has advanced since 2001 and new 3D printed of weapons can pass through traditional metal detectors with ease. Improvements are always being made, but an 80 percent failure is not satisfactory. The terrorists are not just advancing their strategies for smuggling faster than TSA can learn to detect them, TSA is a flawed system to the core.

Getting rid of TSA completely would also be a poor idea. A line of defense to stop criminals from flying across the country and stopping human trafficking is an important part of TSA’s job.

TSA needs renovation. Through voting and choosing officials that care about making airports safe, but not also draining wallets is crucial. Give technology a few years to catch up and I am sure drones and robots will be utilized. Some airlines are coming up with their own solutions. At Delta’s hub in Atlanta special security lanes are manned by agents hired by Delta.

Privatization of airport security is the best solution to TSA. Private companies can chose employees at their own standards. TSA agents are government employees and are entitled to retirement pensions paid by the tax payer. Each airline can decide how much and how strict their security is. A premium airline can have a better system, but budget airlines can choose to have a less security driving down their ticket price.