Every industry has it’s own set of language quirks; three letter acronyms (TLAs, if you will) that become part of the language of that business. Traversing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) web site it’s hard to read an article without a decoder ring. They’ve got TLAs, FLAs, and at least one FILA on their site. tsa_logo.gif I read a story on their web site that announced more random screening at gates this summer. They describe TSOs (Transportation Security Officers) being supervised by STSOs (Supervising Transportation Security Officers) working with BDOs (Behavior Detection Officers) and BAOs (Bomb Appraiser Officers) to detect IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), along with VIPRs (Visual Intermodal Prevention and Response teams), to enhance the ADASP (Aviation Direct Access Screening Program). That’s right, I SYN.
While the airline industry bathes in red ink and airports are being asked to cut their costs or lose airline service, the Department of Homeland Security is looking for a 6.8% INCREASE in their FY2009 budget to $50.5 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a B. You can check out the highlights here, but it includes an increase of $55 million for “deploying the Transportation Security Administration’s Travel Document Checking program to airports nationwide”. I looked for any reference to automation being developed for this purpose, but could find none. In TSA Administrator Kip Hawley’s testimony to the Commerce Committee last May, he referred to “Travel Document Checkers”, which sounds like those people who check your ID and boarding pass before you get to security. An extra $55 million for those folks (I guess we can call them TDCs)??
The TSA is pushing ahead with its CAPPS derivative called Secure Flight, and with an increase of $32 million (who knows how much they’ve already dumped down this hole), they feel like TSA will be able to take over passenger vetting by the end of 2009. I can’t wait.
Earlier this month the Washington Times reported that an independent audit of the TSA produced by KPMG revealed, among other problems, that TSA was unable to provide documentation to back up $585 million listed in its financial documents due to weak accounting practices. Oh, heck, what’s half a billion anyway? Besides, they are a security administration; they don’t do accounting. But evidently they don’t have all the bugs worked out in employee screening either. The same audit found TSA didn’t consistently conduct background checks on new employees and contractors who provide IT security to the Coast Guard’s financial center. DHS didn’t argue with the report and said it is “taking aggressive action to implement the recommendations provided in the report,” according to a letter written by David R. Nicholson, assistant administrator and chief financial officer at TSA.
Why on God’s Green Earth (GGE) should we provide additional funding to an agency that has problems figuring out where the money goes? An agency that dumped who knows how many millions down a dry hole once called CAPPS II, now called Secure Flight (it needs one more word in the name for an official TLA), got its butt kicked by privacy groups, and now is trying this? They’ve been found lacking in screening employees who provide IT security and the KPMG report showed TSA has been allowing new employees “too much access to the computer systems immediately after employment”. Let’s spend $100 million on a passenger vetting system that requires a passenger provide name, address, and date of birth. What can possibly go wrong? GMAFB.
I am all for using airline reservations data to enhance security, but Secure Flight ain’t it. It’s virtually impossible to verify someone’s identity with the information contained in a reservation without impinging on privacy, not to mention the gazillion dollars it will cost for the hardware and throughput required if the system is supposed to be even close to real time. Reservations can be an investigative tool. Time of booking, route, booking source, form of payment, telephone or email contacts, and of course name, are all present in a reservation and can assist intelligence folks tracking bad guys.
The real issue here however is that TSA doesn’t seem be reading the news. The cost of travel is going up, there will be significantly fewer seats offered for sale from significantly fewer airports. And it doesn’t appear to be a short term blip. What airlines and their passengers do not need is additional upward pressure on fees associated with air travel. Even in the name of “security”. Godzilla.jpg