Bimbo Banter


TSA Adopts the “Washington Monument Strategy”


  • Trends
  • August 9, 2018
  • by Merrie Spaeth

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The Transportation Security Administration has set off a storm of criticism for its proposal to stop screening passengers at approximately 150 of the nation’s small airports. Travelers, regulators, elected officials and others are conjuring up scenarios of brazen criminals and terrorists flooding into system.

The former Inspector General of the Department of Transportation terms the idea “completely nuts,” which USA Today picked up in its headline. (“Closing TSA checkpoints called ‘completely nuts.”)

On the contrary. It makes perfect sense. This is called the “Washington Monument Strategy.” The idea is that no one wants to spend money on boring maintenance for something, but when you announce that you’re shutting it down, the money flows. Indeed, that seems like the idea here because news stories reported that over a billion dollars in TSA ticket fees is siphoned off TSA’s budget and diverted to the general budget to make the deficit look smaller.

I’ve participated in a Washington Monument strategy. In 1970, the turnaround time for the FBI to identify fingerprints submitted by local law enforcement jurisdiction was three days. In 1981, it was 30 days. Criminals were being released because the Bureau couldn’t identify them as wanted for other crimes in a timely fashion. The main reason was the loss of 750 personnel in the fingerprint division under the Carter administration. Reagan Budget Director Dave Stockman had declared a hiring freeze. What to do? With sage advice from Justice Department career staff and an FBI Director with nerves of steel (Judge William Webster) the FBI announced it would simply stop accepting fingerprints from local law enforcement. The result? Panic and horrified reaction. Then, we got the positions back. The only thing surprising about the TSA brouhaha is that it’s still working just as planned.



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