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Real Airline Security – Are We Willing To Pay For It?

{ Posted on Nov 07 2010 by Marcus Alston }

The recent report that 1 of 2 bombs concealed in printers and mailed from Yemen to Chicago area synagogues traveled on 2 passenger planes within the Middle East reveal a huge security gap in airline security that has been unaddressed since 911 and has been known to many for years.  The security for packages travelling on cargo (i.e. freight or non-passenger planes such as FedEx or UPS) flights is lax, only some packages are screened and or opened, and some of these packages make their way onto passenger planes.

The government and industry has been slow to develop and or provide wide-spread technology for the mass screening that would be necessary to efficiently and effectively screen all packages for explosives and other dangerous devices.  The technology exists and this needs to be done immediately.  This move however would probably lead to shipping delays and higher costs for consumers.  This is of course an area of conflict for the ConsumerMiser ™, but it is easily resolved for me in this case.  The cost of human lives is worth much more than the costs of shipping delays and higher costs to consumers.  We need to slow down anyway instead of requiring products to be delivered instantly.

The attempted bombing through the cargo plane loop hole should be a warning to react and be proactive about security.  Being proactive about security would also create jobs.

There is already a 2007 law requiring screening of 100% of the cargo on domestic and international passenger planes flying into the United States by August 1, 2010.  According to the Airforwarders Association, the law will require 9,000 new federal employees at a cost of over $700 million just in the first year.  They also added that the costs could drive shippers “to the point of near bankruptcy.’’  Consumers, brace yourselves for higher costs.

Currently, passenger plane cargo is screened at airports and at Transportation Security Administration-certified facilities.  They use radiation, chemical trace detection, dogs, and physical searches to check for explosive devices.  TSA reportedly currently screens 100% of cargo on domestic passenger planes (non-cargo planes), but is only screening 80% of cargo on inbound international passenger flights—another gap.  TSA reports it will not get to 100% for another 2 years.

In light of the recent failed bomb attempts from Yemen, US Representative Edward J. Markey is calling for legislation that would require screening of all packages on cargo planes (such as non-passenger planes like FedEx and UPS) that pass through the United States for explosives.

My Suggestion.  While I do not want to make a hasty or knee-jerk reaction, it is time for Congress to be proactive and not reactive about this gap in security and others.  It could also lead to an increase in government and private jobs in the security area if nurtured properly.  I know this type of approach would cost money—it’s kind of like my roof—I am trying to get every last ounce out of it before I replace it, but by doing so I risk a leak and possibly more costs.  In the case of the United States, however, a leak would costs lives and possibly millions in direct damages and untold indirect damage to the economy.  Let’s not wait for another 911 to respond to a security risk.  Let’s be proactive and spend the money now.

Deputy national security adviser John Brennan told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “it would be very imprudent … to presume that there are no others (packages) out there.”

Related Articles:

Mail bomb in Dubai sent on 2 passenger planes

Bomb Plots Linked to Yemen

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