Security and Efficiency

Although I, along with many fellow Americans, occasionally question the effectiveness of the Transportation Security Administration, there are voices out there that go far beyond that.

That was the case in a recent Foreign Affairs article titled "Homeland Security Hasn't Made us Safer," which argued that somehow the country is no safer despite the billions spent to fund Homeland Security programs.

I fundamentally disagree with that.

Has money on homeland security been wasted to the tune of millions if not billions of dollars? That is quite likely. But protecting the nation, since it's a government task and always will be, will never be efficient, and efficiency really shouldn't be the overriding goal given that in any war there are far more urgent priorities.

How much untold money has been "wasted" in every war the U.S. or any other nation has fought? Maybe I'm in the minority, but September 11 was an attack that required the U.S. to go to war, and it was a war entirely different from what the country has faced in the past. Did we know or have any experience in how to respond to an asymmetrical attack, which threatened the country in ways different from what we had seen before? We did not, and so wasteful spending is bound to occur.

Should budgets and spending be scrutinized and criticized within the open civil society we enjoy in the U.S.? Of course. But I object when suggestions are made that the sum total of these efforts has not made the country safer.

We have not suffered another major successful terrorist attack on our soil in nearly a decade. I ride the New York City subway every day with a degree of confidence that there are a lot of eyes and ears looking out for my safety. I could drive, but don't.

Those involved in the trade and global supply chain business know what has been done and know how successful it has been. How can the claim be made that after the 24-hour rule, C-TPAT, the Container Security Initiative, 10+2/ISF and the deployment of radioactive sensors on containers, that those efforts haven't added up to greater supply chain security?

Wars are by their nature imperfect, inefficient undertakings. But in nearly a decade since September 11, we've come a long way.

-- Contact Peter Tirschwell at ptirschwell@joc.com.

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