Swift security changes come at a price

Amy Scott Aug 10, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: Back home it was just flat-out a bad day to travel. The orange alert for most flights, red for incoming airplanes from Heathrow, had security lines snaking out of the terminals and down the sidewalks. Bomb-sniffing dogs were on patrol. Massachusetts and California called up the National Guard. And airports overhauled their screening procedures overnight. Changes that usually take weeks to put in place. Of course the costs of managing security add up, as Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.

AMY SCOTT: As Detroit Metropolitan Airport adapted to the new security regime, spokesman Michael Conway says staffers were running on adrenaline and Diet Coke. Many of them had shown up for work at 1:00 this morning to prepare for any confusion.

CONWAY: Definitely overtime costs are gonna go up and nobody’s worried about that right now. I mean there will be time later to tally up those kinds of things.

And there will be a lot of tallying, according to Kenneth Button. He teaches transportation at George Mason University and, incidentally, caught one of the last flights out of Heathrow yesterday.

Button says while the federal government pays for extra airport screeners, cities and states shoulder the cost of added law enforcement. He says the airlines will likely pass on any extra security costs to passengers.

KENNETH BUTTON: Society’s going to pay some way or the other. If the taxpayer doesn’t pay, then the airline passenger pays. Ultimately there is a cost.

The cost goes beyond airports. Cities like Washington, DC and New York have also beefed up security at bridges and on public transportation, and increased officers’ shifts.

Juliette Kayyem teaches public policy at Harvard. She says in its latest budget the Homeland Security department cut funding to the very cities that need it.

JULIETTE KAYYEM: New York City ironically had asked for more money for this very thing, right, for the overtime of their police and fire officials. And the Department of Homeland Security had said no.

Kayyem says unless Congress acts, state and local governments will pick up the tab.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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