Screeners with Guns: Candidate for Worst Idea of the Year

The TSA union chief, J. David Cox, now wants screeners to be armed to protect the checkpoints.

The recent shooter event at LAX has brought out the crazies, as I predicted in this space last month.  The TSA union chief, J. David Cox, now wants screeners to be armed to protect the checkpoints.  Oh… wait ….  We already have those at every airport.  They’re called police, and they cover every corner of the airport.  And he wants a whole bunch more Behavior Detection Officers to spot the bad people.  Oh… wait… the GAO report says there is no evidence that program works – none – nil – zip – nada - and should be de-funded.

I’ve never been a fan of unions – I’ve been a member of three in the past, as a requirement of the job – and I recognize that they once served an important function in our economic history.  Not now, and especially not this one.  I will concede that overall, the current TSA screener workforce is immeasurably better than its early post-9/11 days, when one of the issues centered on complaining about needing to change their uniforms and cloth logos for tin badges, so they would look more like law enforcement – which they are pointedly, and intentionally by act of Congress, not.

While I respect Mr. Cox’s efforts to protect his people (and his job), I note that the most recent CDC estimates for yearly deaths by guns in the United States, as of today, 12/8/2013, is roughly 32,773 people who have died from guns in the U.S. since the Newtown shootings exactly one year ago, with a caveat:  the Department of Justice says approximately 60% of all adult firearm deaths are by suicide.  Thus, the single “airport attack” fatality of roughly1/ 13,109th of the total suggests the airport LEOs are already doing a respectably effective job at moving 815.3 million passengers safely through their airports last year.

Further, no matter how much additional protective technology and manpower you might add to any facility, not just airports, you cannot be 100% secure in your environment.  As one aviation expert noted, wherever you establish a security perimeter, by definition there is less-protected stuff outside it.  The bad guys can just shoot different people in different places.

 In my professional capacity, I serve on several security-related joint industry/government committees, where my colleagues know me as the one who continually screams “mission creep” when various suggestions are made: “let’s add this” or “why don’t we expand that to include…”.  The union sees that as more jobs; I see it as more money pounded down an endless and pointless rat hole, and in many cases a dilution of responsibility – not my job, let’s hand that hot potato to somebody else.  Or in this case, instead of doing the job we’re trained for, let’s see if we can find a way to be more intimidating, and maybe start a gunfight with somebody the BDO thinks looks suspicious.  Yeah, that’s it – let’s scare the **** out of everybody in line.  Just because we can.

I’m beginning to like the idea of privatization more and more.   But no union, please….