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How to Make U.S. Airport Security More Secure and Efficient

The events of September 11, 2001 revealed fatal flaws in U.S. airport security. The U.S. has upgraded airport security since, yet inefficiencies and problems remain. For example, it is all too easy for a madman with a machine gun to walk into an airport and start shooting, as we saw with tragic results in Brussels a few months ago. Security lines are also too long, providing an easy target for a terrorist. Finally, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers are underpaid, turnover is high, and morale is low, as documented by former officers.

This is the current state of airport security. We need to solve this problem soon and without alarming the public. We have been lucky that there have been no recent atrocities at U.S. airports. The problem seems daunting, given the size and scope of U.S. airports and millions of travelers daily. Fortunately, there are security solutions which are both effective and efficient.

We need to implement security perimeters. Several countries in East Africa and the Middle East have implemented security perimeters several hundred yards away from their terminals in response to attacks over the years. Cars and buses are briefly screened and checked by trained security personnel, looking for any suspicious-looking people or behavior. Any suspicious vehicles or people would be pulled over to a designated place for a more thorough inspection. Once inside the perimeter, plainclothes officers patrol the entry doors and baggage drop-off desk areas. These officers look for additional suspicious behavior and baggage. These measures would provide an additional layer of security while minimally disrupting passenger’s airport navigation.

Next, let’s eliminate shoe removal. The U.S. should stop requiring passengers to take off their shoes before entering the metal detectors and X-ray machines. This policy was put in place after the failed shoe-bomber in December 2001. Countries such as Israel, who have far more intense airport security than the United States, do not require passengers to take off their shoes. Requiring passengers to take off shoes lengthens the security lines and puts passengers outside the secure zone at far more risk.

We also need to upgrade the caliber of our airport security officers. TSA officers are underpaid, under motivated, and work under a byzantine bureaucratic structure. Furthermore, airports are allowed to hire their own private security instead of TSA officers. Current airport security officers should be replaced with former trained U.S. military personnel. These brave men and women are professional, highly motivated, and will protect our airports at the highest level. As these men and women are more experienced and capable than current officers, the government can pay fewer of them at a higher salary. This will ensure that U.S. airport security will remain budget neutral while also ensuring our veterans get honorable jobs at the wages they deserve.

Some will argue that the airport perimeter plan will be too intrusive and expensive. Others will say that our airport security is good as it is and worry about racial profiling. They are mistaken. Asking passengers to take off their shoes is an intrusive measure which actually hinders security. The measures proposed would not entail additional expenses to the American taxpayer. Racial profiling will still be illegal.

Since 9/11, our airport security has been more lucky than good. Now is the time to make it more efficient and effective. We can make airport security better without more resources and not compromise our way of life. These common-sense solutions will make our country safer and more secure.