If screeners go federal, system may go postal
Here's my take on the situation. The government is unhappy with the security firms the airlines have chosen. Rather than the government trying to do the job itself, why not have the government come up with a uniform set of procedures that would be done at every airport.
They can come up with a list of requirements and any company that cannot meet those requirements would not be certified by the government to perform airport security work. Those that are, could. If a firm is initially certified and then later has problems, that firm doesn't just get a fine. It gets a fine and gets de-certified until the problems are corrected to the government's satisfaction.
The government should set uniform standards and regulate the security firms. The security firms should figure out how to meet the federal requirements in the most cost effective manner, and the ones that can do so get more business. The airlines still have a choice in choosing a firm based on cost and/or service instead of putting all their security eggs in one basket (the government.)
If the government sets higher standards, then costs will go up all all the security firms, but the airlines would still have a choice in who to hire based on cost effectiveness.
If something goes wrong, instead of the governement jumping all over the airlines, the airlines can jump a over the government and say "Hey, I thought you checked out all these firms and said they were comepetent."
The government can de-certify the security firm (or the airline can fire them) and there will still be other choices to fall back on. If security is federalized and the government winds up not doing a good job, who are we going to fall back on then?
Then that tells me the government is only doing half the job. They've set a uniform standard (all screeners need to be American citizens or permanent residents) but they aren't bothering to enforce those standards. They're depending on the airlines to do it for them.
The airlines aren't law enforcement agencies. They're private companies that provide air travel for passengers and cargo. If the government is the one setting the standards and making the laws, then let the government do the enforcing. JMHO.
There was another recent thread on this topic, "Federalize Airport Security? Debate."
In that thread you correctly pointed out that, "Funny thing is companies like Argenbright who are responsible for airport security are 100% owned by European corporations like Securitas, AHL Services, etc. The fact that different "arms" of the same corporation can provide such a vastly different level of security is a call to arms for greater US government supervision in this area."
I agreed with you and posted links to two articles which backed up your claims. One of them was this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Trouble lurks at baggage scanners
Here are some excerpts from that article:
One major firm, Argenbright Security Inc., was convicted last year on charges that it lied to the FAA about whether it conducted background checks on job applicants. It hired dozens of criminals -- including some convicted of kidnapping and assault -- to handle security at Philadelphia International Airport. The company pleaded guilty in April 2000, paid a $1.6 million penalty and was put on probation for three years.
Earlier this month, prosecutors told a judge that Argenbright had violated the terms of its probation by failing again to check for criminal backgrounds.
Argenbright promised to start performing the checks; the judge extended its probation by two more years.
Is it safe to assume that Argenbright's trial was held in a federal court? If that's the case, and Argenbright is continuing to screw up and not follow the guidelines, why isn't the federal judge (government) getting rid of Argenbright instead of extending their probation for an additional 2 years?
FAA officials routinely have found they were able to get weapons past screeners and onto planes. The agency issued TWA more than $1 million in fines for more than 1,165 security violations from 1979 to 1999. Like other airlines, TWA routinely passed such fines on to its airport security contractors.
So instead of the government fining the security firms and the airlines and having the airlines passing their portion of the fine on to the security firm, why doesn't the government assess all the fines to the security firms directly and leave the airlines out of it?
More from the above article:
European security companies generally provide better security than their American counterparts, partly because they pay employees more, train them better and offer them a good career, said Yosef Yahav, a vice president for ICTS. Yet new foreign ownership does not necessarily mean security will improve in the United States, said Chris Yates, aviation security editor for Jane's, a British research firm.
The companies need to be "better regulated" for security to improve, he said. "This includes dealing with vexed issues, such as employee background checking, enhanced training regimes, better pay and working conditions, including benefits."
I don't think the airlines can or should "regulate" the private security firms and tell them they have to pay their employees a certain wage, and give them certain benefits, and tell them they need to use certain standards when training their employees. That should be the responsibility of the government.
More from the above article:
One reason European companies have been enticed to the United States is that they see the American market as less regulated, Yates said.
Well why are the security firms in Europe "more regulated"? And who does the "regulating", the European governments or the airlines?
That situation, too, is changing. If Congress doesn't put federal employees in control of airport screening, then it seems likely that the government will take a much closer supervisory role.
That is my whole point. The government doesn't need to handle security themselves, they need to better regulate the security industry and enforce the regulations, which they, the government, have set in place.
Shortly after the terrorist attacks, the FAA issued tighter security rules that appeared to be aimed directly at reports that the hijackers wielded box cutters. For instance, previously passengers could carry knives with blades less than four inches long.
And whose fault was that? The government's, not the airlines.
The new FAA rules prohibit any knives.
The air security industry points out that no authorities have asserted that the companies failed in their jobs or experienced a security breakdown on Sept. 11. The hijackings and crashes of the four flights that day remain under investigation by a host of federal agencies.
One final point (and I am by no means trying to start a flame war with you), but I assumed by your statement in the earlier thread about the need for more government supervision in this area, that you were inferring that the government needed to more closely supervise the security firms.
Yet, in this thread, you state, "Government oversight over a group of poorly educated and retarded people doesn't help much---they don't have the capacity to do a good job period.
It seems like in the original thread you were all for more government supervision of the security firms, but now you are saying it might be better if the government just did security themselves. Or did I just misunderstand the point you were trying to make in the earlier thread?