The TSA is contemplating dropping security checks at 150 small airports. Not only is the decision justified, but it is imperative for the safety of all passengers.

A report by the Stimson Center (2017) found that US counterterrorism spending has declined in proportion to the total defense budget since its peak in 2008. Over the years, terrorism around the world has scaled down into smaller attacks that are cheaper and easier to carry out. Means of attack have shifted from hijackings, to shootings, homemade bombs, and even car attacks.

Since 9/11, fear of terrorism and an intense desire for safety have been woven into every facet of American life and culture. The federal agency that was created in response to 9/11, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), has been subject to great controversy due to its costly yet ineffective measures. There have been few attempted plane hijackings and fewer successes since 9/11, and no evidence suggests that the TSA has prevented any attacks.

Many credit the absence of attacks to the TSA, but that is not the case. Changes in protocol since 9/11 have reinforced all cockpit doors and made it impossible for terrorists to gain control of a plane. Also, superior intelligence and action on board by passengers and marshals have played a far more important role in stopping attacks. In reality, the TSA actually costs more lives than it saves by discouraging air travel and therefore increasing the amount of deaths by car crashes by at least 2,300.

Even though the point of any security checkpoint is to deter an attack, there is no point having security checkpoints anywhere if they do not work. An internal report conducted by the Department of Homeland Security found that the TSA failed to stop undercover agents’ weapons from passing through 95% of the time. DHS officials tried to smuggle weapons and bombs aboard 70 times and were successful 67 times. One undercover agent received a pat-down after triggering a magnetometer, but screeners failed to discover a taped explosive on his back. For an agency with a budget of $7.58 billion, that is embarrassing.

The benefits of removing security at small airports outweigh the potential risks. The 150 airports in question are low-traffic, low-demand regional airports that service a combined 10,000 passengers every day, according to USA Today. These commuters undergo security checks that no other more popular methods of transportation require: not crowded subways, trains, or buses. The TSA spends a disproportionately large amount of money on these small airports because they simply don’t have enough passengers to keep the staff busy. The same leaked report showed that removing security at these airports yields close to zero risk. Keeping security at these airports would be inefficient, unnecessary, and costly.

The change would mean that passengers traveling from these airports only have to go through security at larger airports for connecting flights. There are concerns raised over the costs of rebuilding and re-configuring airports, but one-time costs of partitioning gates are miniscule compared to the money saved – $115 million annually according to CNN.

If screenings were terminated, the funds used to employ these 1,300 employees could be allocated towards more effective purposes at larger airports. With new technologies emerging by the day, it is imperative that the TSA stay ahead of terrorists. The TSA has just begun testing a 3D carry-on baggage screening system at select airports including Boston Logan, which allows agents to rotate items in a bag in 3D space without trying to look through the 2D clutter or opening up bags. The TSA plans to gradually replace all 2,000 x-ray machines across the country with these machines, but costs are high at $400,000 each. The money saved through cutting security at small airports is enough to purchase 287 CT machines annually. Implementing these machines nationwide in a timely fashion will be much more effective in lowering the risks of an attack, and the benefits will go towards every passenger.

Opponents of the proposal often cite how the 9/11 bombers boarded a small aircraft from Portland, Maine before boarding AA flight 11 at Boston Logan, but had the Downeaster train initiated service 3 months earlier, the hijackers would have almost certainly taken the train as opposed to the commuter aircraft. Significantly more people take the Downeaster, which has no security, instead of the costly commuter aircrafts. In order to prevent another costly tragedy, the TSA must cut security at small airports in order to fix the porous screening process across the nation.