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9/11 and the Future of Transportation Security

*****9/11 and the Future of Transportation Security. By R. William Johnstone; published by Praeger Security International, (Web); 218 pages; $49.95.

Why did 9-11 occur? To name just three reasons, all pertaining to the aviation industry: lots of agencies were involved in aviation security, but no one was singularly responsible; security wasn’t in the top ten priorities of the civil aviation system or the Office of Management and Budget; and whenever the Federal Aviation Administration considered security enhancements, the airlines would “push back on anything that cost them money or their passengers time."

So says R. William Johnstone in this critical study of U.S. transportation security. The question is, where are we today by comparison? In this well-rounded work, Johnstone dissects the structure of the transportation system, identifies organizational politics and recent changes in structure, and explores managerial problems in transportation security agencies.

As a former transportation security staff member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) and a twenty-year congressional staff member, Johnstone is in a good position to offer a perspective heavy in policy and politics, if not technical detail. It is evident that the author has firsthand experience with the difficult interactions among security agencies, and the result is a good overview of the frustrations that prevent real progress in transportation security.

Johnstone, who looks at all forms of transportation, specifies which of the 9/11 Commission recommendations were made by the transportation security staff, which sheds some light on the resulting document. He then offers an in-depth status report on those recommendations, explaining pointedly where the federal government has fallen short.

According to Johnstone, one major need is for the next Department of Homeland Security budget to reflect a broader risk-based perspective, so as to avoid spending the lion’s share of transportation security funds on a single mode of travel—aviation. More generally, risk management should guide all decision making, he emphasizes.

Transportation security professionals and policy makers are the obvious audience for this book, but others would benefit from it as well. Anyone responsible for homeland security, intelligence, counterintelligence, risk assessment, or related fields will find much to ponder here.

Reviewer: Mark H. Beaudry, CPP, is a senior security professional at IBM-SWG in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a member of ASIS International.