Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Verdict is in -- and TSA should heed it NOW!

If you haven't aready heard, let me pass on an interesting piece of good news for general aviation: Richard L. Skinner, Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, released a report on general aviation, TSA's role and the overall security picture...and he said:

"We determined that the general aviation presents only limited and mostly hypothetical threats to security."

In other words, as a security threat general aviation poses little -- and what the threats the TSA wants to clamp down on are "mostly hypothetical" and the aircraft in general are too light and of highly limited capacity to do damage.

Isn't that what we've been saying for several years?

Mr. Skinner's report notes that reports if suspicious activities to the AOPA Airport Watch Hotline have resulted in only rare instances of cases that might pose a real security threat. And the department's own Office of Intelligence has concluded that there are no credible threats of crop dusters being used to mount a chemical or biological attack.

OK. The verdict is in. Time for the TSA to withdraw the Large Aircraft Security Program proposal totally and turn its resources to watching for real threats. And time for the TSA to simply kill off the recently inacted insanity requiring background checks, fingerprinting and airport-specific badges for GA tenants at air-carrier airports with physical separation between the two operations.

We do not need these skeenkin' badges.

Of course, we pretty much all recognize that this could change; but between the AOPA Airport Watch Program and its activities, hotline and how-to pamphlet, we're all sensitive to the appearance of suspicious activities -- and those reports to the hotline have proved this system works.

So TSA -- do the right thing.

And finally, to Prof. Lawrence M. Wein, the professor of management science at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, maybe you should manage to read Mr. Skinner's report.

After your little OpEd in The New York Times this week, you may want to update your MBA approach to general aviation security because it's wholly lacking in logic, devoid of effectiveness and even more impractical than anything the TSA has come up with -- at least, anything that's made it to the light of day.

The good professor was discussing the lack of an "overarching strategic plan" at DHS, observing all the ways terrorists might sneak a fissile weapon into the U.S. -- across borders, via boats, and, of course, airplanes. He identified four modes with no less than 132 different paths possible.
Here's what he said about general aviation:

"What about attack by a small plane? Given the impracticality of shooting down a tiny aircraft before it could detonate a bomb from the air, the best approach is to begin screening all domestic departures of small airplanes. This effort should be folded into the Securing the Cities Initiative."

Guess for someone sitting in a bastion of theoretical management practices where process is king, the good professor might have his supporters.

But his approach -- even absent the report from the DHS IG -- was lacking wholly in practical aspects and logistical basis. Every flight? Really?

How? With what army? Oh, yeah...let's not forget, the terrorists will just naturally stick with using an established airport with establishment security screening becuase we know how important it is for terrorists to obey the laws of the nation they want to attack.

Please. Every flight screened? Really?


Get a grip, Professor. And come back when you've come up with a recommendation that we also start screening every trip by a pick-up, minivan or SUV.

Really. And read Mr. Skinner.

He seems to be the half of this week's DHS news that has a grip on reality -- let alone practicality.

-- Dave


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