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Blast From a Past TSA Chief

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Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP file photo

Kip Hawley, who headed the not-always-beloved Transportation Security Administration from 2005 to 2009, took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal this weekend to air a flurry of recommendations on how to fix the nation’s “broken” airport security.

“More than a decade after 9/11, it is a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect,” he wrote. “Preventing terrorist attacks on air travel demands flexibility and the constant reassessment of threats. It also demands strong public support, which the current system has plainly failed to achieve.”

Hawley said the crux of TSA’s problem is its approach to risk, which is so stuck in obsolete lessons from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that it has turned travel into a nightmare for the public. “The TSA's job is to manage risk, not to enforce regulations,” he said. “Terrorists are adaptive, and we need to be adaptive, too. Regulations are always playing catch-up, because terrorists design their plots around the loopholes.”

His five remedies included eliminating the bans on such items as cigarette lighters, allowing liquids onboard, giving TSA officers greater flexibility, ending baggage fees and making security checks more random.

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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