Monday, May 23, 2016

TSA head: Expect more airport security delays despite funds

Some thoughts on the TSA lines and the target they present:

Many people would probably be surprised to hear that security starts long before the checkpoint. The TSA is understandably close-mouthed about exactly what they're doing, but we know a few things for certain. One, an attack on the checkpoint is one of the threat scenarios we've been anticipating, even before the recent shooting at LAX. We saw this in the quick response by Capitol Hill security in their checkpoint incident a couple months ago. 

But the TSA has been developing their behavioral detection program for several years now. Essentially you have eyes on you from the moment you enter the terminal, and many times even before. Aside from the TSA's officers and bomb-sniffing dogs you also have airport police who are being trained in these techniques. We were just asked to develop a course for one of our biggest airport clients to train their officers. The city police who patrol the airport drop off lanes are watching you also. Everyone is looking for the out of place, the unusual, or the guy who just looks off. Often times the person can't even control certain behavior or mannerisms even if they're trying to "act normal."

The long lines are a bit concerning, and somewhat of a mystery. I've traveled a number of times since the recent problems with the lines. Sometimes I breeze through in five minutes. Other times it's been well over an hour. It depends on the airport and time of day. I think part of it is more people are carrying on luggage now, and more people are traveling by air as the economy improves. The TSA needs to anticipate where they can and respond. More personnel and more lanes open at peak times will help a great deal. Also there are some screening functions that don't require a TSA officer. You can have airport staff assist by helping people divest more efficiently or working the line to make sure they know where to go and what to do. 

Lastly some airports are taking a serious look at private screening. The TSA allows for it and is not actively discouraging airports from considering this as an option. It would free up more TSA personnel to work at other airports, and allow the agency to operate in more of an oversight role. Twenty-two airports are already operating under this program, and more are switching every year. It is a trend we are likely to see continue. (TH)

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