This column is a bit late in reaching the Airport Business publisher because, frankly, there didn’t seem to be much new worth reporting on, so with the Editor’s concurrence, I elected to wait a few days for TSA Administrator Pistole’s speech to the ACI Safety & Security Committee – surely, I thought, if there was something truly important for TSA to impart, this audience of all the leading airport security experts in the nation was the right place. Silly me.
In truth, it was not bad at all, and it’s difficult in a semi-public forum to get down into the details of the real hard-core threats, vulnerabilities and response measures that this audience wants to hear. But it was merely a re-cap of TSA’s bright and sunny view of life ... all the new “partnering opportunities” now that TSA has reorganized yet again (I’ve lost count of the re-orgs) and has, to their credit, undertaken the new approach Risk-Based-Security (RBS) to concentrate their resources where it makes some sense – Pre-Check, known crew members, easing up on kids and old people, etc.
In response to an audience question, Pistole suggested that SIDA-badged airport employees might be considered a “trusted population” for Pre-Check purposes, which caused some back-row mumbling about whether that meant they were not trusted for their other duties of, say, protecting the airport. He mentioned the re-(re-re)training of the BDOs to focus on that word “behavior” in their title after the recent kerfuffle at BOS and elsewhere about racial and ethnic profiling; and the excellent progress of the In-Depth-Security Review (IDSR) group in cleaning up old, redundant and/or now irrelevant Security Directives and ASP amendments (which should have been done somewhere around 2005, but to give him credit, that wasn’t on his watch).
OK – a nice summary of where things stand; no surprises, many new and improved efforts underway, some of which may actually work, but as the ads for Powerball say, you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket and play the game. Think “puffer” machines: good idea, poor implementation.
The next day, Pistole got some public relations bonus points: A Gallup poll gave TSA a much higher rating than the U.S. Congress. It is something of a mixed blessing that the positive comparison is among those near the bottom rung on most public opinion ladders, but in politics, security, and that old joke, there’s a pony in there somewhere.
The poll shows that 54 percent think TSA is doing an excellent or good job of handling the screening responsibilities at U.S. airports. Just 30 percent rated the agency’s overall performance as fair. Congress got an approval rating hovering around 16 percent. No surprise there, either. As one observer asked: Should TSA be delighted, or should Congress be appalled? Here’s the poll: