It’s hard to remember a time when we passed through airport security without taking off our shoes or putting liquids in three-ounce containers — all security measures put in place after 9/11.
Since those terrorist attacks, the United States has spent more than $1 trillion on domestic homeland security, according to John Mueller, a professor of political science at The Ohio State University. Mueller’s research, laid out in the book Are We Safe Enough?, looks at spending on aviation security from a cost-benefit perspective.
“That’s an awful lot of money to spend without spending any time evaluating whether it’s accomplished its purpose or not,” Mueller said.
“We need to separate security measures that don’t work very well from ones that do. That’s essentially what the government has not done.”
When you get on a plane, the likelihood that you’ll be killed by a terrorist is 1 in 80 million, Mueller said.
“Terrorism doesn’t present the kind of risk that would suggest we’d need to spend that much money on it,” he said.
One solution, Mueller said, is to take a hard look at the federal air marshal program, which he said costs about $1 billion a year, but reduces the risk of a terrorist attack very little, according to his research.
“We calculate that if you reduce air marshals by two-thirds and spend a small amount of the savings on security measures that are more effective and cost less," he said, "you’ll have better security and save both the taxpayers and airlines hundreds of millions of dollars per year.”
On a plane, the likelihood that you’ll be killed by a terrorist is 1 in 80 million.
Mueller, along with co-author Mark Stewart, proposes that one such security measure is secondary barriers to cockpits.
“The only way to make airplanes completely safe is to ground them,” Mueller said. “But there are things that we can do to not elevate the risk from terrorism and also save a lot of money.”