This commentary appeared in New York Daily News on July 30, 2002.
Manpower, munitions and money were vital to America's victory in World War
II - but so was smart strategy. The same is true in our war against terrorists
Today a debate rages about the wisdom of a Dec. 31 deadline requiring the
new Transportation Security Administration to screen all checked luggage loaded
onto airplanes. The House voted narrowly last week to extend the deadline for
a year because it looks like the agency could not meet it without causing massive
delays at airports. The Senate has yet to vote.
The agency would need to get more than 2,000 explosives-detection screening
machines to examine checked luggage by the end of the year to meet the original
deadline, but only a few dozen are being manufactured each month for airports
around the world. The agency could instead search baggage for explosives by
hand, but that would cause massive delays. The agency also must hire, train
and retain about 52,000 competent security staff.
To succeed, the agency needs to develop a creative and ambitious battle plan,
and then execute it.
That is what Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and the other generals who worked with
him did when they planned and then led the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. The
Allied generals studied the enemy, found its weak points and assembled a well-trained
and massive force that attacked with stealth and strength at the opportune moment
- not to meet a schedule set in legislation.
We need the same kind of effort today for the Transportation Security Administration.
But regrettably, aviation security in this country continues to be a product
of industry-government wrangling and partisan politics.
The agency is hobbled by its lack of a strategic research capability to make
critical decisions. Glaring gaps exist in the deployment of explosives-detection
technology - gaps that can be filled immediately. Even if the year-end deadline
for searches of all checked luggage cannot be met, other steps should be taken.
A serious move to tighten airport security also will require serious money.
For example, doubling the $2.50 per boarding tax that is now charged on airline
tickets would bring in about $5 billion in new funds each year that could be
used to cover additional costs.
As the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security - on which I
served - noted five years ago, improving security will require a combination
of technologies, procedures and security officers who do their jobs properly.
Aviation security tends to follow a pattern of enforcement and compliance, but
it needs to focus on analysis and strategy as well. Instead of reacting to deadlines,
the Transportation Security Administration should be acting to formulate innovative
strategies and advising Congress on what needs to be done and when.
The agency should take the lead in liberating our skies from terrorists the
way our forces under Eisenhower took the lead in liberating Europe from the
Explore All Topics »