On Friday, March 1st, sequestration went into effect and mandatory spending cuts went into place affecting everything from things we don't see every day, to regular things like the TSA. While there are two sides to every story and whether you believe the cuts will help trim off excess fat the government is spending or will doom this nation, this article isn't about the whys. This really relates to how it might affect your routine at the airport and beyond. Initially, I must first state that I believe our government is a joke and we couldn't work on something to actually improve this nation if it hit us in the face. This is not to stir the "who's right, Democrat or Republican" debate, however this is to stir the "BOTH Democrat and Republicans are a joke" debate. Additionally, I feel sorry to a degree for those losing jobs, that is never a good time for anyone, but at the same time, many of these were not jobs that we had the ability to create in the first place.
Now to go back to my more specific topic of this article, aviation, I will start out by saying these were necessary in a couple areas of the airline industry, specifically the Transportation Security Administration, and I doubt it will affect the traveling public as much as many media personal and politicians want you to think. This whole country lives on drama and if we didn't have "dire consequences that will affect every man, women, and child", then why would we care. Even if it has no consequences in the end, who cares, as long as we got the ratings and the media exposure that they need. For the general public of the world, just because we don't have anything worthwhile on TV to report about, doesn't mean we can't make up "headlines". If anyone thinks that we don't create "news", they've been living underneath a rock since the beginning of time. Anyone ever notice that we spent what seemed like years covering the Michael Jackson death because of all the media coverage, but then when something else came along, you hear nothing about it again. Let me ask you, what's happening in the case right now? Do you remember who was involved, or even their profession? Conrad Murray, a cardiologist, from right here in Houston. I can nearly be sure that most people reading this are thinking right now, "Oh yeah! Now I remember!” The issue is that he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in California in November 2011 and is presently in a county jail serving four years. I bet you didn't actually know that last part, or that he is expected to be released later this year because of prison overcrowding. The issue here is that he is old news and therefore, no one really thinks about him; we moved on to the next big thing. We're in that same situation right now.
Sequestration is set to reduce $85 billion dollars every year, for 10 years. Most of the really hard stuff won’t hit for another 30 days, but they have begun as of Friday night when President Obama signed the order. As for aviation, this is going to affect us through air traffic control and mainly TSA. Air traffic control isn't going to be effected as extremely as most people are thinking. This is specifically the 168 contract control towers at some smaller airports around the country on April 1st and an additional 21 on September 30th. With that being said, AIRLINERS ARE NOT GOING TO COME CRASHING DOWN ON US! There are tens of thousands of uncontrolled airports, better understood as airports without control towers, in the United States operating perfectly safely every day. These airports are also not just the small general aviation airports; these are airports that I, an airline pilot, have flown into. Many airports across the nation have part-time control towers that close in the evening and early morning in which the airlines have to operate out of without a control tower. These airports have operated with no problem for decades and will continue to do so. These contract control towers are airports where they have a bit more traffic to warrant a tower, but not enough for the Federal Aviation Administration to give up some of its own employees. Let me also dictate that despite the ridiculous media coverage, the major airports that we as passengers on the airlines will have no effect at all. There are 49 FAA operated control towers are smaller airports that are considering reduced staffing of one or two days per two-week pay period, but that is possibly years down the road, if at all. These are things that had been discussed once a long time ago as possible cost saving measures and now politicians are bringing them back again as a scare tactic. You will not see airline travel start canceling at a whim because of the lack of control towers, I guarantee it!
Now, what will affect the general public? That would be the TSA. The TSA is scheduled to take a hard hit with nearly every one of its employees taking at least a day furlough every two-week pay period. What do I have to say about this? I wish it was permanent! Now before people get outraged and yell that I'm a terrorist and wish to have less security simply because they are ignorant and uneducated, let me explain myself. The TSA was created in 2001 in a knee-jerk reaction to the September 11, 2001 incidents by John Mica, a representative from Florida. The initial budget to get it up and running was set to be $500 million dollars. Before I actually say what their 2011, 2012, and 2013 budgets were/are, I'd like you to take an honest guess on what you think they are now. Honest guess. Come on! $600 million? $750 million? $1 billion? $2 billion? $4 billion? How about $8.1 billion. Over 16x greater than when they came out. Why might you ask? That's because people in America need to hoaxed into thinking they live in a great country that is safe and secure. If you say no to security funding, you must be supporting the terrorist! Just like every other part of our government, we spend an exuberant amount of money where it should not be spent. How is that possible with security though? Again, anything is possible with the TSA.... Federal investigators tracked those cost overruns to recruiting sessions held at swank hotels and resorts in St. Croix, the Virgin Islands, Florida and the Wyndham Peaks Resort and Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo. Additionally, charges in the hundreds of thousands of dollars were made for cash withdrawals, valet parking and beverages, plus a $5.4 million salary for one executive for nine months of work. I was leaving Hobby airport yesterday and I stopped to admire the TSA and their efficient work. At each scanner, they had nine TSA employees. They had two people instructing people how to put up their bags, one person directing them to the backscatter image machine, another directing them into the actual machine, another two x-raying their bag, another standing in front of the metal detector machine to make sure people don't actually go through that machine (which pilots are required to be able to use due to the radiation exposure from the backscatter units), another directing the people out of the units, another directing people to pick up their bags, and lastly, a supervisor watching over them all (I didn't include her in the count since she wasn't actually doing any work, just standing there talking with a local cop, but while still on the clock I might add). There is so much waste just in the number of employees they have that it's ridiculous, but don't take my word for it, listen to TSA Founder John Mica.
“It mushroomed into an army,” Mica said. “It’s gone from a couple-billion-dollar enterprise to close to $9 billion.” As for keeping the American public safe, Mica says, “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years. Everything they have done has been reactive. They take shoes off because of [shoe-bomber] Richard Reid, passengers are patted down because of the diaper bomber, and you can’t pack liquids because the British uncovered a plot using liquids,” Mica said. “It’s an agency that is always one step out of step,” Mica said. It cost $1 billion just to train workers, which now number more than 62,000, and “they actually trained more workers than they have on the job,” Mica said. “The whole thing is a complete fiasco,” Mica said.
That last part I could not have worded better. One of the ways that would work wonders to reduce the expense and drain the TSA is to this country is to privatize. The Screening Partnership Program was a way the Department of Homeland Security could allow local airports to privatize their security stations. The unfortunate part was that the TSA had to authorize the privatization and after some extreme criticism in 2011 and 2012, where the phone was off the hook with cities wanting to privatize their security and remove the TSA due to the poor job they were doing, John Pistole, the acting administrator of the TSA banned any additional privatization of airport security, simply trying to save his job. While this is an obvious cop out, this is also under review as to whether or not he even has the authority to just ban any additional reviews. We're also not talking about small airports here; we're talking about airports like San Francisco International Airport and Kansas City International Airport, which managed to get privatized before the ban.
All this talk about four hour security lines is just fear mongering to try to get political agendas done. Yes I follow many Democratic policies and that the only good news in the day comes from The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart needs to be the leader of the free world, but most of my views are very moderate and independent and if it sounds stupid, it probably is. Maybe sequestration is good in the fact that we can finally try to get the TSA under control. There is absolutely no reason at all that security lines should increase at all. If you don't believe me, think this, there are still a finite amount of bag scanners and x-ray machines, those aren't changing regardless of the excess TSA employees that are just standing around. You still can't have more than one person sitting in front of the x-ray machine and no more than one passenger going through the scanners at any one time. Again, America needs to pull its head out of its rear end and actually just use common sense.
Either way, it will take many months before anything is actually done, nothing really earlier than April 1st. Ironically, the only people that see the effects of this immediately are the government officials themselves travelling via military jet. Those officials include Vice-President Joe Biden and all other cabinet members that get use of a military aircraft for travel. While Vice-President Biden is allowed to still use Air Force Two, he believes that he needs to do his part and part ways with the Boeing 757. Everyone else doesn’t have a choice as all aircraft are grounded indefinitely except for aircraft serving President Obama.
I’d love to hear some comments about this article below, so please, tell me what you think. Again, I’ve lost my job before because of someone’s inability to financially control a company, and I’m sorry that it came down to this. Just please don't turn this into a political debate or who's right and wrong.
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Lastly, both men and women please don’t forget to get checked up and screened for breast cancer. It affects more people than many realize and checkups are very quick and easy. It could save your life or the life of a loved one.
Here's to clear skies and smooth flying ahead!