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.

Richard Griffith

Shreveport, La.

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