Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 2, 2005

Turning TSA around?

Filed under: Aviation Security — by Christian Beckner on December 2, 2005

A story today in CQ discusses current plans to refocus the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Key paragraphs:

Edmund S. “Kip” Hawley announced the completed reorganization plans in a Nov. 30 broadcast to TSA screeners and employees. Hawley has told aviation industry groups and Congress that he wants to restructure the agency to focus on becoming more flexible to the latest terrorist threats. Experts who are familiar with the plan say it may help to jolt the TSA out of its bureaucratic malaise.

“I think what Hawley is trying to do is change the focus of the organization from really being a process-oriented organization, like an assembly line, to a goal-oriented organization,” said James Carafano, a homeland security expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Hawley’s vision for airport security seems to reject the prevailing principle since Sept. 11 — that airport security is mostly about physical screening. In speeches before aviation groups and Congress, he has emphasized the importance of collecting and sharing intelligence and creating an agency that can act more quickly in responding to information about threats.

This refocusing of TSA seems like a smart idea. Treating the TSA screeners like cogs in a machine is a recipe for them to lose focus. Giving them more responsibility will likely improve the effectiveness of security at checkpoints. But Hawley needs to be careful though not to give the Federal Security Directors at each airport too much leeway – that could lead to overzealous enforcement.

And it’s good that Hawley is recognizing that it’s not all about physical screening. There are numerous other layers of security in the aviation system that require more attention, beyond the single point of failure at the checkpoint.

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