10 years after 9/11: Are we any safer?

Many security experts say yes, but much work left to be done

Much, however, remains to be done in all of these areas such as continued improvement of the intelligence flow downwards from our national level to state and local LEOs. Notwithstanding the positive aspects of our improved security we will be living the consequences of the al Qaeda era for decades to come.

Lori Beckman, founder of Aviation Security Consulting and former director of security for Denver International Airport: I am hopeful that giant strides will be made in the next decade. They say aircraft modernization will escalate 25 years in the next 10, so why can’t aviation security do the same? The bottom line is we need to be able to continually move toward intelligence-driven, risk-based strategies and away from just identifying bad things. We need to develop and implement sensor technology, fully converge/integrate technology, implement reasonable biometric credentialing and referencing, and increase the layers of security through increased insider threat detection methodology such as behavior recognition programs.

We need to be sensitive to passenger human factors and growth trends, accelerate and promote innovation, be more consistent with international standards, and continually track emerging threats and provide proactive response. Further, since many experts and policymakers continue to voice the opinion that now that TSA has matured, steps should be explored to separate the agency’s potentially conflicting missions of daily aviation security operations and broad industry and internal agency oversight and regulation. The way we have always approached aviation security should be a process of the past as we move airports into the future with futuristic concepts, technology and long-term thinking.

Randy Harrison, managing director of corporate security at Delta Air Lines: Since 2001, much advancement in aviation security has been made as a result of government and aviation industry cooperation. The creation of TSA to standardize security at our nation’s airports and establish more robust and defined security standards and procedures across the entire aviation system have greatly improved overall security. Technological advancements in the areas of baggage, passenger, and cargo screening have made the industry far more capable of identifying threats. Coupling focused intelligence-gathering and sharing capabilities with the collection and use of personal passenger information under the Secure Flight and Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) programs has greatly improved the ability to identify those who wish to cause harm to the aviation sector. Hardened cockpit doors, the Federal Flight Desk Officer program, enhanced crew security training; significant enhancements to the Federal Air Marshal program and other measures implemented to protect aircraft and passengers are all components of an improved aviation security program. All of these factors have resulted in a number of instances since 9/11 where would-be terrorist attacks were thwarted.

The real questions, however, are whether we are secure enough and whether our aviation security programs are performing at the expected levels. Many have expressed concerns regarding the effectiveness and underlying philosophy of the Transportation Security Administration, and perceived threats to individuals' privacy that result from new passenger screening techniques. The challenge is walking the right line to protect the traveling public while keeping pace with evolving threats. One thing for sure is that the sustainability of the current system is in question. The TSA's push to employ more risk-based screening exemplified in Administrator Pistole's Known Traveler program is a step in the right direction. While we will never go back to the days of arriving at the airport 20 minutes before a flight, correct application of a risk-based approach will help us return to a system where screening for the large majority of travelers is not as challenging a process, and limited resources can be better used to focus on those who pose the greatest threats to the system.