Sunday, January 10, 2010


This blogger has long been skeptical re the "how come we (i.e. the U.S.) don't just use the Israeli airport security model" meme, pointing out that it is not at all clear if it is really possible to scale up to the extent necessary e.g. see the 'Worth repeating?' blog entry from December 2009.

Well, FP's 'What would it cost for the U.S. to get Israel-level airport security?' attempts to do the math, albeit rather roughly. However, it does show the difficulties involved, and the numbers derived are large enough to cast doubt on the viability of the meme, for example:

"According to an analysis by Bloomberg News, Israel spends around 10 times more per passenger than the United States does. "[An analyst] estimated El Al's security bill at $100 million a year, which amounts to $76.92 per trip by its 1.3 million passengers. Half is paid by the Israeli government," Peter Robison wrote. The United States, in comparison, spent in 2008 $5.74 billion to monitor and protect 735,297,000 enplanements, or around $7.80 a passenger ..."

"Well, for one, the United States would need a whole lot more security guards -- at least according to my back-of-the-envelope math. Say each passenger flying through a U.S. airport received on average 10 minutes of questioning from one guard. That would work out to 7.35 billion minutes, or 123 million hours, of work annually. We'd need 3 million full-time guards to perform it. That's 200,000 more people than the total number of active and reserve military personnel, and twice the number of U.S. Wal-Mart employees. It would cost somewhere north of $150 billion a year ..."

"Working the math out another way, let's say that the U.S. decided to spend as much per passenger as Israel does, according to the Bloomberg analysis. We'd then pour around $62.2 billion a year into airport security -- more than 10 times what we currently spend on airport security, and about as much as we spent fighting the war in Afghanistan last year ..."

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