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Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
transportation may be willing to accept the outlays for blast-resistant containers, electronic tamperproof seals, and real-time recording of shipment manifests if they facilitate the general movement of cargo and better secure it against theft and loss.18
It will also be important to recognize that certain security approaches are practical and acceptable under some circumstances and impractical and unacceptable under others. For example, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, airline passengers have demonstrated a willingness to endure time-consuming and invasive security procedures. For many travelers, airline trips are long any-way and not a daily occurrence, and extra time can thus be spared for additional security measures. To be sure, similar inconveniences would not be so well tolerated by passengers in the more time-sensitive modes used for daily commuting, and air travelers’ impatience with burdensome security procedures can be expected to grow over time, especially if the public views security procedures as more symbolic than substantive.
The advent of effective security initiatives therefore depends not only on good research pertaining to transportation operations but also on an understanding of human factors. Such insight is needed for everything from designing airport security checkpoints that are more efficient and less error-prone to developing means of deterring terrorists through the aforementioned “curtains of mystery.” Indeed, human factors are integral to all security initiatives, whether they entail technologies, procedures, or organizational structures.
It is especially important that the role of people in operations and security not be determined by default, simply on the basis of what technology promises, but rather as a result of systematic evaluations of human strengths and weaknesses that can be complemented by and supplemented by technology. Human strengths, such as sensitivity to context and pattern recognition, may be difficult or unnecessary to replicate. Indeed, it may turn out that some technologies do not hold promise because they are inferior to, or incompatible with, the performance of human users—for instance, they might interfere with the performance of flight crews, bus drivers, or screeners.19
Many other nontechnical issues also loom large in the development and deployment of effective security systems. Privacy and civil rights controversies, for example, dominate the debate over data mining and biometric technologies for passenger prescreening, identification, and surveillance—a debate that goes beyond the transportation sector, extending to other technology-based realms as well.20 Though technological advances will undoubtedly continue to offer many
See Badolato (2000) and Flynn (2000a, 2000b).
Prior experience with new technologies in aviation has shown the value of this approach, and the FAA is now committed to early integration of human factors in its acquisition programs.