A story in CQ today (by subscription only) suggests that supporters of homeland security funding for MANPAD (shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles) countermeasures are nervous that DHS will cut off the tap soon. The article notes:
Top officials at the Department of Homeland Security are reviewing a program for evaluating technologies to defend airliners against shoulder-fired missiles, stoking fears among congressional supporters that the program may be killed over concerns it is not sufficiently risk-based.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., has sought assurances from Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson that the department does not plan to torpedo the technology study.
â€œI asked him, â€˜Are you going to change lanes without signalling?â€™ â€ Israel said. â€œHe personally committed to meet with me and others who are interested after he is finished.â€
Jackson and Secretary Michael Chertoff have preached risk-based homeland security spending since they joined the department last year. However, a spokesman for the department said there are no plans to kill the program.
I’m not surprised to hear that MANPAD countermeasure programs are getting a long, critical look. DHS has spent the last 2-3 years researching and developing countermeasure systems and technologies – a very appropriate investment as an “option” against an unclear threat – and it seems like there are now several feasible technology solutions that could be deployed. But just because DHS has paid for all of this R&D, that doesn’t automatically mean that it should exercise the “option” and pay +$10 billion for a deployment across the entire commerical aviation fleet. I don’t really see a broad Congressional interest in MANPAD countermeasures today, and I think a national, fleet-wide deployment is not an easy sell if you follow the methodology of Sec. Chertoff’s “risk-based approach,” especially at current funding levels for DHS.
For more on the MANPAD issue, see my summary of a Heritage Foundation event held in December on the topic.