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Billions Spent, But Are We Any Safer?


Billions Spent, But Are We Any Safer?

In its usual witty, acerbic but always readable content, Fastcompany.com  looks at the Transportation Security Administration’s huge expenditures on air travel since 9/11 in their efforts to keep us safe.

How big is huge?

Fifty-six plus billion dollars spent on schemes and strategies that more of ten than not fall flat or never get off the ground.

But as the publication asks, who’s getting the money? And what is working?

On balance there seem to be more busts than successes; more wastes of money than strategies that work.

Looking at the TSA’s efforts, Fastcompany highlights the hits and the misses:

• Thirty million for machines that puffed air onto travelers to check for explosive residues. Remember those? Ended in 2006.
Verdict: Not worth it

• 35 million to retrain human screeners because of so many traveler complaints. TSA’s advice to its workers: Smile, be pleasant. Did it work? Hardly.
Verdict: Not worth it

• 103 million to breed and train dogs in TSA’s Puppy Program which, some say, would reduce the need for intrusive pat-downs.
Verdict: Maybe worth it

• 2.8 billion for explosives detection equipment, a boon to supplying-companies like General Electric and L-3 Communications.
Reportedly the program has thwarted some would-be terrorists.
Verdict: Worth it

• 122 million for full-body scanners from tech companies, including Rapiscan Systems.
Several of the full-body x-ray images managed to find their ways onto the Internet, even though no images are supposed to be saved.
Verdict: Barely worth it.

• 13.5 billion for for human screeners. Seems they have intercepted 50 million carry-on dangers from hacksaws to alligators, since 2007.
Verdict: Worth it

• 5.5 billion to train and employ air marshals.
How many are there? TSA isn’t saying. Doessn’t want the bad guys to know the mathematical likelihood of encountering one.
Verdict: Maybe worth it

• 1.2 billion to fund the Threat Assessment and Credentialing Program.

I’m not really sure what this does, except,  to “work closely with intelligence and law enforcement entities, and other appropriate agencies to mitigate the threat posed by an identified individual.”

FastCompany reports that although the program checks employees backgrounds, a couple of TSA agents were arrested fro stealing from checked bags.
Verdict: Still worth it. Maybe

So, are we safer?
Verdict:  Who really knows!

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