Reasons to Privatize Airline Security

The primary reason to privatize airline security is that the TSA, as a government agency, has created a dangerous situation, where the dangers and costs of their procedures far outweigh any actual benefit. This occurs primarily because the odds of someone being killed in a terrorist attack are only 1 in 20 million years of life, and only 3% of these are attacks on airports or airlines. This small risk is simply not worth the costs of what the TSA does.

There are 3 primary costs of the TSA:

  1. The TSA spends 8.1 billion annually which could be more effectively spent on other ways of saving lives, like installing tornado shelters in the midwest or getting more children to wear bicycle helmets.
  2. The pain of TSA screening procedures likely causes people to displace from short-haul flights (less than 500 miles) to driving, though driving is 167 times more dangerous than flying on a per mile basis. The displacement likely results in 500 excess deaths on the road per year.
  3. The long lines for screening actually creates very attractive easy targets for a terrorist attack with a suitcase bomb. The fact that this hasn’t happened shows that the TSA is actually doing nothing to improve security.

3 Items to Privatize

Privatize the screeners. The TSA’s own Trusted partner Program allows airports to have TSA government-employed screeners replaced by private screening companies. This has been done in about 20 airports now and, not surprisingly, the private screening companies are reported to be more responsive to customer concerns as well as slightly cheaper.

Privatize the rules. There is little reason for the government to be involved in developing a one-size-fits-all program for airline security. These decisions would best be made by individual airlines depending on their market positioning and assessment of risk, along with their insurance companies. Different airlines or different terminals or different airports could have their own assessment of the risk-benefit tradeoff. This is a longer term goal which will require legal action to have the TSA change their rules.

Privatize the risk. After the 2001 attacks, congress passed several laws which limit the liability of airlines for damages subsequent to a terrorist attack. There is no reason for this limitation. If an airline cannot fly airplanes profitably while assuming the risk of damage of doing so, then they shouldn’t be allowed to fly. These laws were basically corporate welfare for the airlines, partially to compensate for the FAA’s decision to ground all flights after the attack.

How to Get the TSA Out of Arizona
Let’s start with a push to privatize the screeners at all airports. To do so we will need to:

Petition the Airport Commissions to Request Private Screeners. All 9 major airports in Arizona have an airport commission. Except for Tucson, which is privately owned, these generally have various local elected political officials sitting on the commission. We will need to attend meetings, which are usually held monthly, to begin to understand how they operate and make decisions.

Establish a Website. We will need to have a web presence to serve as a point of education for the public and to coordinate activities. One suggested name for this site is realairlinesecurity.org. Volunteers are needed to help setup and run this site.

Demonstrations. Since approximately 50% of American Citizens mistakenly believe the TSA is somehow useful and necessary, we need to engage in demonstrations to bring the facts to public attention. On 12/22/14 we had a good reception from carrying signs at Phoenix Sky Harbor and passing out leaflets. I would suggest we begin planning additional demonstrations. Ideally these can be timed to high-traffic times at the airports in question.

Dr. Peter N. Steinmetz
26 Feb 2015

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