NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Risk-Based Airport Security

June 9, 2003

America's current approach to airport security is seriously flawed. By devoting equal resources to every passenger and every piece of luggage, it spends too much on people who are no threat and too little on the few who might be, according to a new report by Reason Public Policy Institute.

A more intelligent approach to airport security is to apportion security resources to passengers and baggage in proportion to estimated risk. Risk-based airport security would mean a reduced focus on finding bad objects and an increased focus on identifying potentially bad people -- those most worthy of additional scrutiny.

To facilitate a risk-based airport security system, Reason recommends that Congress:

  • Require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to test and then implement a Registered Traveler program.
  • Require that private sector service bureau(s) operate the Registered Traveler databases(s), interfacing with the TSA and the airlines.
  • Prohibit the TSA from implementing a system that data-mines databases for personal and financial details of all airline passengers.
  • Re-interpret the 100 percent checked baggage screening requirement of the Aviation & Transportation Security Act to permit the use of high-speed, automated X-ray systems for first-tier screening, consistent with their use for carry-on bag screening.

Shifting to a risk-based approach will permit limited security resources to be better targeted in the airport segment of transportation, says Reason.

Source: Robert W. Poole, Jr. and George Passantino, "A Risk-based Airport Security Policy," Policy Study No. 308, May 2003, Reason Public Policy Institute.


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