Letter to the editor

This is in response to Richard Griffith's letter to the editor, in response to a Milt Zall column that appeared in Federal Computer Week's Oct. 15 edition.

Griffith's suggestion that private industry would be better at airport security misses the point entirely. The point is, private industry WAS in fact contracted for services and therefore responsible for the poor security that was in place.

Once again, people will attempt to point the blame at others when facts suggest otherwise.

Private companies were/are given standard procedures to follow in airport security. The failure squarely lies in the fact that Mr. Griffith states in his reply: private industry's goal of a "less expensive" way to conduct business.

Where they found savings was in training. They saved money by not sending employees to training seminars or classes, not hiring trained instructors to conduct these classes and not hiring ethically trained supervisors to oversee these employees at security checkpoints. We should also not forget the pathetic wages these "security" personnel are given. Everything is sacrificed in the name of profit and, unfortunately, peoples' lives.

To answer another of Mr. Griffith's questions, "Ever wonder why commercial pilots and aircraft maintainers are paid more than minimum wage? They aren't federalized." Again, he is mistaken.

Commercial pilots and others associated with the airlines are paid above minimum wage not because they are privatized, but due to the fact that they are unionized, although the flight attendants' and maintenance workers' unions are far behind the increases enjoyed by the pilots. They are so far behind, in fact, that a recent report on the Denver nightly news stated that the United Airlines maintenance personnel have not had a raise since 1994, all in the name of profit.

Finally, Mr. Griffith's statement, "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," is sadly way off-base.

Here are a couple of facts Mr. Griffith is apparently very unaware of. Federal employees do pay taxes. They pay federal, state, city and county taxes. Oh, let's not forget Social Security and Medicare taxes, in addition to their own medical and dental coverages. These taxes make their way into the local and national economic communities. So, federal employees are giving back the same way as do privatized employees.

As for economic growth, it is a known fact that new developments and discoveries are found in the research community. The same community that is government-funded. Another way our tax dollars are at work.

Private industry, on the other hand, is entrenched in a profit-at-all-cost mentality. Expenses such as research and development are shown by the massive layoffs at the slightest dip in stock prices. We need to look no further than the predicament that companies like Enron have put employees and creditors in.

So, in my opinion, my answer is "yes" to federalization of the security personnel at airports. In the end, it can be said that private industry had the responsibility at first and sadly failed on all counts to live up to their responsibilities to protect fliers' lives.

Their pursuit of the almighty dollar was something nobody could protect against.

Steven Ennis
Commerce Department

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