By Christopher Bidwell
In the years since 9/11, governments have added more aviation security layers with each new threat. Simply continuing to do things the same way and add even more layers is not sustainable over the long term. Further, there is a general reluctance to rescind measures, even when the threat or countermeasures has evolved, due to the concern for being accused of being weak on security. Although security layers are necessary, they should be routinely assessed to gauge their effectiveness, and cost needs to be part of the equation.
With the United States, Canada and the European Union driving aviation security policy, there is an opportunity to preserve limited resources. Doing so necessitates increased collaboration and coordination between governments, and the need to develop mutually recognized security standards and screening technologies. As an example, the European Commission sets aviation security standards but many European Union countries impose additional measures, creating an uneven patchwork that perplexes even the most seasoned traveler. In many cases, passengers and baggage must be re-screened when crossing international borders.
In Europe, airports – not the government(s) – provide almost all the aviation security operational costs. Indeed, 29 percent of airports operating costs and 41 percent of airports staff are security related. With security costs increasing exponentially, there is even more need for a coordinated approach to aviation security.
As aviation traffic continues to grow, we need a risk-based aviation security system that uses available data to more effectively balance customer service and detection. Information is available at multiple points that can be readily utilized to help focus limited security resources on those about which the least is known. Following the roll out of TSA’s Risk-Based Security initiatives, the European Commission has accepted the idea of risk-based security and has embarked on an industry-government working group to develop a model. Similarly, in Canada aviation regulators have embarked upon a risk-based program to streamline the security process for travelers enrolled in the Nexus program.
In needing to plan for the future aviation security system that harnesses the risk-based strategy, the International Civil Aviation Organization has established a Next Generation Screening Checkpoint Technical Advisory Group. ACI, in partnership with other aviation organizations, and regulatory authorities is participating on the advisory group to design a future system capable of maintaining the appropriate level of detection while increasing efficiency and reasonable costs, so that it is sustainable in the long term.