I travel a lot and one of most unpleasant problems I encounter is the TSA. The lines are frequently long and the employees on occasion discourteous. But the most annoying aspect is that I have very little confidence that its procedures are well designed to keep us safe or that its personnel even assiduously follow these procedures. Over the summer confirmation of my fears came in the form of Homeland Security’s revelation that in over ninety percent of the instances, a “red team” designed to test security got through with some sort of dangerous contraband. Such failures should force us to reconsider the structure of TSA.
What the agency most needs is more private competition. Currently few passengers go through private screening. If the agency put more private contracts out for bid, the government could incentivize better results. The contracts could include clauses that would reward companies for passing the tests that the government run screening has so miserably failed. More competition would also aid innovation and efficiency over time. A centralized bureaucracy is unlikely to come up on its own with the all best ideas. At first, the government could continue to centralize various aspects of security, like background checks of screeners. But even those could be outsourced as if contractors could show that they had better methods.
The government should also reconsider unionization of TSA screeners currently employed by the agency.