Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Post-post 9/11 Era of Security

We have seen massive changes in the aviation industry since the events of September 11, 2001, and greater government involvement in securing the skies in the form of TSA and the Department of Homeland Security.

Since the recession which began in 2008, however, businesses - including airports and air carriers - have been under pressure to reduce costs to maintain profits or even stay afloat. Jet fuel prices remain high, and North American carriers have seen negative growth for both passengers and freight this summer. There has also been increased focus on reducing government spending to balance federal, state, and local budgets. The recent spending battles on Capitol Hill are also being echoed in state legislatures across the country, and DHS grants were reduced by $780 million in FY2011, $1 billion in FY2012, and $484 million for FY2013. Lastly, save for a few unsuccessful attempts to hide bombs in shoes, underwear, and toner cartridges,  the aviation industry has been relatively incident-free since 9/11, with no major terrorist successes.

These three factors have contributed to an economic and regulatory environment where all entities are seeking to scale back. Business are reticent to expend more money and resources on security and other non-revenue producing operations. As for the TSA, they are shifting their focus and priorities as well. The recent RAND study published on August 30 on "Efficient Aviation Security" proposes using cost-benefit strategies to ensure the most security for the least cost; the TSA's behavioral-detection and trusted-traveler programs demonstrate a shift from the layered approach to a risk-based approach to security. Even the terrorists are scaling back, a result of the marginalization of Al-Qaeda and the decapitation of their leadership structure, and the move by their affiliates towards smaller-scale and lone-wolf attacks.

Eleven years on, we have entered the beginning of the post-post 9/11 era. The business environment has changed, the availability of public funding has changed, and the threat has changed. The security mindset must change as well.