Sunday, October 08, 2006

TSA directives: Differences between theory and application

There is an interesting article on the Airport Business website about how security directives issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sometimes create new and unanticipated problems when they are implented in the field.

The writer notes that problems arise because, by their very nature, security directives frequently are issued on very short notice -- sometimes within a matter of hours. Not all commercial airports have the immediate resources available -- including funding and needed personnel -- to fully comply. As a result, implementation of security directives is not always uniform, especially in the initial hours and days after they are issued.

Here are some examples:
A recent directive deals with the escort privileges that go with your airport ID badge, and now restricts the conditions under which you may bring an unbadged person into certain areas when necessary. It's not going over very well. Many airlines have reduced their leased space to a minimum (major money problems for the airport) and are also reducing their staff. Thus, they have a pool of fewer and fewer employees to pull from, most of whom must now perform multiple tasks. Another major impact is with contractors. Some now badge only the supervisors and allow them to escort the workers, but this causes real problems at a construction site with trucks and people in constant motion and crossing boundaries every moment of the day.

Another example is the occasional security directives requirement to "increase law enforcement presence and patrols" in response to some threat. Sounds reasonable at the bureaucrat's desk, but no airport, including the largest, has policemen sitting on the back bench with nothing to do. The lead-time for recruiting, hiring, vetting and training a new law enforcement officer, including both state and federal mandatory training and certification requirements, can easily be six months or more.
The writer, who is an aviation security consultant, suggests that the TSA needs to share more information about the 'why' of security directives with the people who are in charge of security at individual airports.
Airports need to understand the threat, not just be told to perform a laundry list of responses without knowing the reasons why. Then, the airports can also bring local resources to bear that TSA didn't even think of. People will always want to kill folks and cause damage. There will always be a threat. TSA needs to be smart and fire only shots that need to be fired.
Read the whole article here: Some TSA Security Directives Imposed with Little Forethought - Airport Business

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