Air Transport World

Waiting for the government: there is a lot of improvement possible in US airport security. (It Solutions: Airports).

Security processing at US airports one year after the Sept. 11 attacks has the sophistication of a sledgehammer and the selectivity of a tsunami sweeping all before its irresistible force. The US airline industry has made numerous suggestions to government for improving the program, with little response. In late July the carriers represented by ATA tried again, submitting a proposal to launch a pilot program to move airline employees and registered travelers into separate security streams and bolster their identity validation. At this writing, they still were waiting for a reply from the Transportation Security Administration, which previously endorsed the general idea of such a trial.

In the rush to fortify the aviation system in the US after the terrorist attacks, security took precedence over all other considerations. And while those responsible for security grappled with demands that the system be made even more secure, passengers and carriers complained that the first-generation scheme was more than annoying, inflicting damage on the transportation system it was supposed to protect.

Certainly one of the difficulties that operators and passengers faced was the law enforcement background and focus of the newly created TSA's managers: Maintain order, leave the business of business to others. Another problem was TSA's crushing deadline schedule that pushed other considerations to the side.

The first head of the agency, John Magaw, initially saw little need to improve the processing flow for special groups, especially passengers, saying he could find no benefit to be gained. However, in recognition of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's endorsement of the concept, Magaw softened his stance, "especially since I started working for Governor Ridge," he told ATW in mid-July. Two days later he left TSA.

Despite TSA's efforts to build a security system, it remains a system in name only. …

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