Monday, September 12, 2011
What We Didn't Hear Yesterday
Now that we have begun a new decade since the attacks of 9/11, I believe it is time to take a fresh look at the TSA and airport security.
As a person who has spent an entire career developing techniques to save lives and manage risks, the expenditure of $57,000,000,000 on airport security is at best excessive and at worst largely a waste.
What do I mean as "excessive"? Given that cockpit doors are locked and that passengers would fight back against any attempt to hijack a plane, spending that amount of money -- given the far more serious threats we are hardly addressing -- is nonsensical.
We just saw 46 deaths and (preliminary estimate) $15,000,000,000 in damage due to weak Hurricane Irene. Just imagine what a category 4 hurricane (which occurred in 1938) could do to the Northeast given today's population! Want $10/gallon gasoline? Just put a cat 3 or greater hurricane into the Houston Ship Channel. We have put too many fuel production eggs in that basket. These are just two examples where some smart planning and investment of small sums could greatly lessen our society's vulnerability.
And, there are huge -- huge -- threats that are not even on most people's radar. A giant solar storm or an EMP attack would, given our complete lack of preparation, take us back to 1870. That's right, 1870: No electricity. Our homes and businesses would be dark, our modern autos would not run, we could not pump gas and your local pharmacy would quickly run out of medicine. The power would stay off for months.
As Sen. John Kyl said in 2005:
The Sept. 11 commission report stated that our biggest failure was one of 'imagination.' No one imagined that terrorists would do what they did on Sept. 11. Today few Americans can conceive of the possibility that terrorists could bring our society to its knees by destroying everything we rely on that runs on electricity. But this time we've been warned, and we'd better be prepared to respond.
That was six years ago and nothing has been done.
There is a bill before Congress to address this threat by reinforcing the electric grid that I believe should be passed immediately.
It is time to stop the expansion of airport security and the TSA. That is fighting the last war.
We need to direct the vast sums of money for new TSA body-scanning machines into better disaster preparedness and fixing these huge vulnerabilities.