Letter to the editor
This is in regard to Milt Zall's Bureaucratus column, "More feds, not fewer" [Federal Computer Week, Oct. 15, 2001].
No, suddenly the public doesn't want more feds. The public wants better
aircraft security. Federalizing security was only one option and a poorly
conceived one. The column refers to the FBI and the CIA federal employees
all being unable to prepare for what happened, thereby disproving the
implication that the answer somehow rests with federalization.
The column fails to provide justification that airport security is or
should be an "inherently governmental" function and also fails to consider
the other people (maintenance, cleaning, food and beverage, etc.) who have
aircraft access. If federalizing was the answer, they'd all have to be put
on the government payroll.
There are less expensive ways of providing security we haven't yet explored.
For example, Europeans have far better security than we do, and they do
it with private companies. Israel's El Al pilots are armed and have comparatively
secure cockpits, and security checks are done by private companies. They
have not experienced a hijacking since adopting such practices. Most U.S.
commercial pilots are ex-military personnel and were required to carry side
arms in combat zones, so there would be no big cultural shock if we were
to adopt the practice here.
Ever wonder why commercial pilots and aircraft maintainers are paid
more than minimum wage? They aren't federalized. However, a federal agency,
the Federal Aviation Administration, sets high standards for earning and
maintaining licenses and rigorously enforces the standards through a system
of flight exams, check rides and certification levels.
The government does its job, the airlines do theirs. This keeps the
government (tax-funded) payroll minimized and keeps the commercial (tax-paying)
payroll maximized. Only nongovernment employees add to economic growth and
vitality. Government bureaucracies don't do so, and they are inherently
inefficient and tend to grow.
No, federalizing the security workforce isn't the answer. Set higher
security standards and enforce the standards at all commercial airports,
license the facility and the person, recertify and recheck.
We don't need million-dollar studies, congressional investigations and
other time-wasting activities. Immediately adopt the best practices (undoubtedly
those of El Al) and adopt them for U.S. law, custom and practices. Voila,
it's the shortest distance between here and better security.