The commercial aviation safety and the millions of passengers who travel annually has rapidly emerged as a high priority in the national security following the numerous events of terrorism which have taken place for the last decade. The September 11, 2001 attack when four commercial aircraft were hijacked and used for destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers and for inflicting of ruthless harm to the pentagon, caused a shock to the world and instigated a full scale analysis into the efficacy of screening technologies on passengers and procedures which the United States airports used. The increased global awareness to activities of terrorism gained in 2006, whereby some terrorist suspects were apprehended as they plotted to detonate explosives on their way to United States. In responses to these events plus others, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has initiated various changes to develop novel aviation security screening strategies at all commercial airports nationally. These changes have caused effect on logistic companies and travelling public.
Major changes of the TSA
The history of aviation security operations started in the 1970s, when basic surveillance equipments were installed and metal detectors were to be used for screening all passengers. Baggage and passenger operations in screening remained mostly unaltered until 1996, when the aviation commission on security suggested the use of existing explosive detection technologies, positive passenger matching and automated passenger prescreening to enhance the airport security level. In 1998, there was introduction of Computer –Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS), which was an automated system for risk assessment of the risk of passengers and for aiding in distribution of limited resources in security screening. The prescreening system like CAPPS, apportions different passengers a superficial level of risk on the basis of personal background information, and prior history of travelling among others.
Before the September 11, 2001 incidence, passengers were categorized by CAPPS as nonselectees (those cleared by CAPPS) or selectees (those not cleared b CAPPS). The selectee passengers together with their luggage were undergoing higher screening intensity levels together with base level of screening, while non-selectee passengers were not receiving any extra security attention. At present, the perceived passenger risk may as well be subjective to other factors, like those obtained from the screening factors like the ones from Screening Passengers through Observation Technique (SPOT) program; for instance, as part of Checkpoint Advancement model for improving security through focusing on technology, process and people (Lee, & Jacobson, 2012).
TSA`s daily risk assessment policy and the current transportation security threat
A topic that involves aviation security and that which received heated criticism is about the Homeland Security Advisory System accuracy. Considering that this system was developed and is maintained by Department of Homeland Security, the system categorizes the current level of threat into one of the five, guarded (blue) color-coded threat categories: low (green) high (orange) elevated (yellow) and severe (red). Janet Napolitano, the then Secretary to the Department of Homeland Security announced that a task force would offer a 60-day review of the effectiveness of the system at informing the public regarding the conditions of the prevailing threat (Transportation Security Administration, 2010). The consequent Homeland Security Council made a recommendation that improvements ought to be made to both public and private sectors, where intelligence accuracy and confidence in assessment of threat need to be dealt with. On April 20, 2011, the Homeland Security Department publicized the National Terrorism Advisory System to replace the extant Homeland Security Advisory System. Instead of utilizing the color-coded scheme, this novel system of threat alert disseminated the nature of public threat, together with defining the threat as either imminent (where threat is specific, looming, or plausible) or elevated (on the basis of plausible intelligence) (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2010).
Before the overhaul the frequent criticism of the Homeland Security Advisory System was that the level of threat could increase. Consequently, the Homeland Security Advisory Council made recommendations that the system of alert had to give back any ‘elevated’ category to ‘guarded’ with immediate effect, in line with the intelligence on threat, unless reliable intelligence showed the essence of maintaining the elevated alert. The revamp feature of the system of advisory threat motivated the use of quantitative and systematic approach the capture the current level of threat, specifically in environment of airport, by doing analysis of the assessed passenger risk from a vibrant point of view. Therefore, information obtained from real-time can be utilized as a part of establishing the current security operating condition on the basis of this intelligence.
Effect of traveling public or logistics companies by new methods and approaches
The consistent changes in the TSA policies have had significant impact on public travelling as well as to the logistics companies. The public has the feeling that their privacy is been infringed upon. The constitution does not offer protection to the right of travelling. Despite the fact that legal scholars deem it as being a constitutional right of the same kind as freedom of association, the term travel or its equivalent is not present in the document except for guaranteeing the right of members of Congress to travel back and forth from work. Those fretting over their continued ability of travelling abroad ought to consider what is happening to travel to different parts of America. The majority of similar methods currently restricting foreign travel will be used within America since a similar agency handles both.
When people are using shipping companies, they make the assumption that their package is rushed to the airport with immediate effect to use the next flight. Just a small number of the packages in real sense make it into the airplane. Similarly, only a small amount is placed on a plane for carrying passengers. Of the many cargo tons shipped from one coast to another daily, only about fifty thousand are categorized as air cargo. Of that amount, about 25% is shipped using domestic passenger air carriers. The Transportation Security Administration is tasked with ensuring that there is security of all transport modes, together with cargo on airplanes and specifically focuses on planes which carry passengers. The changes made in the TSA policies have caused inconveniences to the logistic companies. These inconveniences results from delays caused in the check points. The delays caused by these checks cost these companies considerable amounts of money which could have been used in other activities. However, it could be argued that the cost cannot equate to the cost that could be incurred if an unlikely incidence could have occurred like the September 11, 2001.
Recommendations for new screening methods
The steady changes in the procedures of security together with their vulnerabilities exploitation has recently resulted to heavy criticism from the media regarding the effectiveness of the security screening the offering security to the airspace of the nation. The hard part in scheming synchronized security procedures lies within attaining a proficient, non-intrusive and cost-effective solution via the optimal use of intelligence, technology and procedures. Novel approaches to the design of security system are needed which apply quantitative and systematic scrutiny in the utilization of risk assessment technology and analysis in a manner that passengers undergo the suitable screening level.
Lee, A.J. & Jacobson, S.H. (2012). Identifying changing aviation threat environments within an adaptive homeland security advisory system, Risk Analysis, 32(2), 319-329.
Transportation Security Administration. TSA statement on new security measures for international flights to the U.S. Press Release, January 3, 2010. http://www.tsa.gov/press/
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Advisory System Task Force report and recommendations. Technical Report, September, 2009. Accessed on April 6, 2013