In today's Wall Street Journal, I write about government's failure to effectively run airline security.
Florida Congressman John Mica, a Republican who now heads the House Transportation Committee, complains that the agency doesn't make us safer. He points out that Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber," was stopped by alert passengers, not by the TSA. The father of the "underwear bomber" warned the government about his son, but the TSA still allowed him to fly with a bomb in his underwear. Only passengers prevented him from detonating it.
After the Times Square Bomber's attack failed in 2010, Rep. Mica points out, the man "ordered his ticket on the way to JFK, went through TSA, [and] got on the plane."
There is a better way: Let private companies compete for the job.
When writing the law that created the TSA, Rep. Mica added a provision that allows airports to "opt out" of federalized security. San Francisco Airport took advantage of that and hired Covenant Aviation Security, a private screening company.
It was a good move. A leaked 2007 TSA study found that San Francisco's private screeners were twice as good at detecting fake bombs as TSA screeners. Passengers at San Francisco International have told us "screeners here are friendlier" and "more helpful." The private screeners also work quickly, and lines are shorter. Company managers move screeners around to minimize wait times. A 2011 House Transportation Committee report found that, in the time it takes TSA screeners at the Los Angeles airport to process 100 passengers, San Francisco screeners process 165.
As usual, government fails. But individuals, free from government, succeed. For more about that, you can check out my new book (just out today): "No, They Can't: Why Government Fails, But Individuals Succeed."