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TSA a Giant Waste of Money
April 27, 2011 6:36 AM   Subscribe

John Mueller and Mark Stewart may have found the one part of government we can afford to cut in their paper "Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security" From the abstract "The cumulative increase in expenditures on US domestic homeland security over the decade since 9/11 exceeds one trillion dollars. It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures applying risk assessment and cost-benefit approaches that have been standard for decades."
posted by RSaunders (30 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
"the one part"? Did they look at all at the DoD?
posted by DU at 6:37 AM on April 27, 2011


It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures

Ten years too late. Shouldn't someone figure out whether to spend the money BEFORE spending it?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:44 AM on April 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


The TSA took my baby away.
posted by Eideteker at 6:46 AM on April 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures

and figure out how to make the public swallow double those.
posted by telstar at 6:56 AM on April 27, 2011


Well, given how republicans love to think that corporate approaches to everything are the only efficient and intelligent means of getting things done, and given that risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis is standard corporate practice, I can't see how there can be any objection to the conclu....ZOMG AL QAEDA!!!!
posted by spicynuts at 6:58 AM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures applying risk assessment and cost-benefit approaches that have been standard for decades.

I'm sure all our self-interested politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists will get right on this.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:14 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures applying risk assessment and cost-benefit approaches that have been standard for decades.

Oh how cute.

(I hate being this cynical, but come on.)
posted by callmejay at 7:19 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


In seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of the massive increases in homeland security expenditures since the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, the common and urgent query has been “are we safer?” This, however, is the wrong question. Of course we are “safer”—the posting of a single security guard at one building’s entrance enhances safety, however microscopically. The correct question is “are the gains in security worth the funds expended?” Or as this absolutely central question was posed shortly after 9/11 by risk analyst Howard Kunreuther, "How much should we be willing to pay for a small reduction in probabilities that are already extremely low?"

versus

"We do not create terrorism by fighting the terrorists. We invite terrorism by ignoring them." (which is a quote from W.)

Only Nixon can go to China. Any Democrat who guts "homeland" security will be blamed for every act of terrorism for the next decade.
posted by three blind mice at 7:29 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reading the Probability neglect section was embarrassing for me. Any well-run bureaucracy, and pretty much any poorly-run one too, has to justify their expenditure with cost-benefit analysis.
A second stratagem for neglecting probability that is sometimes applied at DHS is to devise a rating scale where probabilities of attack are added to the losses. Thus, as a Congressional Research Service analysis points out, to determine whether a potential target should be protected, DHS has frequently assessed the target's vulnerability and the consequences of an attack on it on an 80-point scale and the likelihood it will be attacked on a 20-point ranked scale. It then adds these together. Thus, a vulnerable target whose destruction would be highly consequential would be protected even if the likelihood it will be attacked is zero, and a less consequential target could go unprotected even if the likelihood it will be attacked is 100 percent.
Congressfolks accept this kind of hand-waving because questioning DHS looks "weak," but what is the motivation for doing such shoddy analysis in the first place? Unless the president or DHS higher-ups are telling employees, "we want to spend $1 trillion--figure out how."
posted by domnit at 7:52 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"embarrassing for me as an American," is what I meant to say.
posted by domnit at 7:53 AM on April 27, 2011


Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our terrorists winning?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:54 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


America has such incredible potential -- for our own citizens, for innovation that could change the world for the better -- and yet such immense resources, financial, human, and otherwise are just being wasted. It's heartbreaking.
posted by clockzero at 7:58 AM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


I knew the threat level was green all along.
posted by box at 7:58 AM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


> Any Democrat who guts "homeland" security will be blamed for every act of terrorism for the next decade.

This sort of attitude just feeds the madness. People need to be shown their tax dollars being wasted. They need to understand that many if not most of the things that the DHS are doing aren't helping protect them from terrorism and a lot of them are actually increasing the threat. They also need to understand that no matter how much you oppress your own citizens, no matter how much money you waste, some terrorist attacks will get through.

By the end of Obama's term, we'll have spent $10 trillion dollars on DHS, and there's no evidence at all that they've prevented even a SINGLE terrorist attack. Think of all the lives that could have been saved or improved for $10 trillion!

People need to be told this. They need to be told, "We will do everything we can to reduce terrorism but even making the US into a police state won't prevent it altogether. Wasting your money isn't going to make you safer. GROW UP."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:04 AM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here is a single, succinct image which elegantly describes the entire situation.
posted by Xoebe at 8:25 AM on April 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


what is the motivation for doing such shoddy analysis in the first place? Unless the president or DHS higher-ups are telling employees, "we want to spend $1 trillion--figure out how."

Given how strong the incentives are for congressfolk to bring government business back to their district... this is not entirely without some truth.
posted by phearlez at 8:29 AM on April 27, 2011


It's better to get mugged than to live a life of fear.
posted by davelog at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies at Ohio State?

Woody Hayes, future benefactor of the security state.

Indiana University really should endow a Bobby Knight Chair. That would be cool.
posted by grounded at 9:00 AM on April 27, 2011


$302,000,000 on military expenditures since this post was made.
posted by edgeways at 9:01 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I see your reasoned argument and raise you a picture of a crying child, a tiny American flag, and a NASCAR jersey.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:20 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


phearlez: I'm not arguing against "bringing home the bacon". When the government decides that it needs to spend $1T on stuff, I'm just asking that it be spent effectively on whatever stuff they pick. Please tell your politicians, "Don't bring me no spoiled, moldy bacon. I want the nice pepper-crusted stuff."
posted by RSaunders at 9:20 AM on April 27, 2011


Another interesting way to look at the TSA budget (~$8B/year) is that we could pay for TSA with a 5 cent per gallon increase in the federal gas tax. The current 18.4 cent (+6 cents for diesel) tax is collected on about 160B gallons.

We could pay for a 5 cent per gallon gas tax cut by throwing TSA under a bus. (sorry for the pun) Sounds like something politicians would get behind.
posted by RSaunders at 9:38 AM on April 27, 2011


I'm just asking that it be spent effectively on whatever stuff they pick.

Well, those cameras on Maryland police cars that take a picture of and log every license plate they pass are pretty swank.
posted by zangpo at 9:41 AM on April 27, 2011


"By the end of Obama's term, we'll have spent $10 trillion dollars on DHS, and there's no evidence at all that they've prevented even a SINGLE terrorist attack."

Have their been any terrorist attacks since 11/9? No? Clearly those in favour of DHS/TSA will claim that the reason for this is due to the sterling work of the DHS/TSA. Looks like you just can't win on this one.
posted by marienbad at 9:55 AM on April 27, 2011


> Have their been any terrorist attacks since 11/9? No?

What are you talking about?! There have been numerous terrorist attacks since 9/11. That includes the anthrax - did you forget about the anthrax? - the various clothing bombers, the guy who blew up a car in Times Square, and tons of other isolated events.

Some of these were more successful than others, but the costs have been extremely high, and they all have one thing in common - Homeland Security had nothing to do with these criminals being detected or caught.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:28 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


... the total number of people killed in the years after 9/11 by Muslim extremists outside of war zones comes to some 200 to 300 per year. That, of course, is 200 to 300 too many, but it hardly suggests that the destructive capacities of the terrorists are monumental. For comparison, during the same period more people—320 per year—drowned in bathtubs in the United States alone.40 Or there is another, rather unpleasant comparison. Increased delays and added costs at U.S. airports due to new security procedures provide incentive for many short-haul passengers to drive to their destination rather than flying, and, since driving is far riskier than air travel, the extra automobile traffic generated has been estimated to result in 500 or more extra road fatalities per year.41
posted by Huplescat at 10:55 AM on April 27, 2011


Tiger repellant. Do you see any tigers around here? No? BECAUSE THAT SHIT WORKS. And if you do see a tiger, well, your tiger repellant must be improperly applied or out of date. But if you ever stop applying tiger repellant, and you ever get eaten by a tiger, well you know it's your fault because you weren't using the tiger repellant.

It's the biggest insurance scam in the history of insurance combined with the biggest protection racket in the history of protection rackets.

All because the human mind cannot correctly process risk and voters in the USA are unwilling to elect people smarter than they are.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:30 AM on April 27, 2011


phearlez: I'm not arguing against "bringing home the bacon".

And I think I am fairly clearly not arguing for it, just responding to domnit's incredulous statement. The fact that there's massive spending associated with this stuff - often to large well-heeled corporations employing former government officials - is indeed part of why this goes on.
posted by phearlez at 12:52 PM on April 27, 2011


Just yesterday I watched this TED talk
Pretty interesting stuff.
One of his important points is that security theater rises out of a situation where people judge the risk of a danger to be high but the actual risk is quite low. The problem is that due to vividness of the events of 9-11-2001 people radically over estimate the likelihood of another attack and demand security theater. I don't expect this to change until folks get some more mental distance from day and are able to judge the relative risks more accurately.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 1:15 PM on April 27, 2011


The TSA took my baby away.

TSA Frisks A Baby; Says The Stroller Set Off 'Explosives' Alarm
posted by homunculus at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2011


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