Commentary Magazine


Privatize Airport Security

Rather than use sequestration to trim waste, the Obama administration has viewed the deadline—and the Republican desire to curtail spending—as an assault on big government. If it’s a choice between defending big government and hurting the individual, President Obama appears much more inclined to punish the individual, hoping that a backlash against government-instigated inconvenience will lead Republicans to cave.

Nowhere is this attitude on greater display than with regard to airport security. Transportation Security Administration procedures at airports have been controversial for some time, and their effectiveness up for debate. There’s no need to rehash those news stories here. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood, and other officials have warned darkly of the time needed to clear security checkpoint and customs lines doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling. Jonathan Tobin has covered the fear-mongering well.

Lost in the headlines, however, has been the desire of several airports even prior to sequestration to drop the TSA and instead contract out for their own security. The government may be playing chicken, with ordinary people the victims, but sequestration should also renew the drive to enable the private sector to replace government bureaucracy. Endless airport lines under sequestration are not about security, they are about the inability of a government agency to do its job with its available means. In the real world, if a business fails to provide a promised service, its contract becomes void. Rather than cave once against to those who would embrace big government, perhaps it’s time to call Obama and Napolitano’s bluff, send the TSA pink slips, and let airlines and airports handle the security task themselves.