Office of Congressional Relations
TSA officer examining a piece of luggage, photo by TSA

11 Years After 9/11, a Call for Sweeping Review of Aviation Security

Eleven years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, terrorists remain focused on the idea of attacking airplanes. Earlier this year, a new and improved bomb was recovered which attempted to avoid detection by airport security, underscoring the need to investigate possible ways to counter this latest terrorist innovation. TSA is performing well under extraordinary difficulties, but there is still need for vast improvement. As attack tactics have continued to evolve, the need for security has resulted in an increasing number of layers--and frustrations--for passengers.

What is needed, according to a new RAND report authored by Brian Michael Jenkins is a fundamental review of how we secure the airplanes that two million passengers board every day in the United States.

The new report, Aviation Security: After Four Decades, It's Time for a Fundamental Review argues that after 40 years of focus on tactical measures, it is time for a sweeping review of aviation security.

Instead of forming the usual federal commission to undertake the analysis, non-governmental research institutions could be selected to independently design an optimal aviation security system.

Such a review should be undertaken not with the four decades of measures currently in place, but instead with a clean slate. The resulting competing models would be reviewed and the best ideas or combination of ideas would be put forward. Even a finding of results similar to what is already in place would be beneficial, as it would offer affirmation that the current system is effective.

The report argues that there are several possibilities for what could be considered in such a review, including focusing less on objects and more on the passengers themselves, the expansion of a trusted traveler program beyond TSA'S new pre-check, and a more-effective use of prior flight histories and other information already available to airlines to indicate the need for greater scrutiny for individual travelers.

Such proposals, the report argues, might better allow finite resources to be reallocated according to risk.

If you have any questions about the report's findings or would like to speak to the report's author, please do not hesitate to contact me at or (703) 413-1100 ext. 5320.


Matthew Dicker
Legislative Analyst
RAND Corporation
1200 South Hayes Street
Arlington, VA 22202-5050
(703) 413-1100 x5320

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve
policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis.

Mission &


Reports &




News Media

Facebook   Twitter   YouTube   RSS

Copyright © 2012 RAND Corporation. 1776 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401-3208.
RAND® is a registered trademark.

We respect your privacy. If you do not wish to receive these updates, please email