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Agencies’ Cooperation in Airport Security Essay

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Updated: Jun 16th, 2020


Aviation security has been a big problem in the United States of America. Critics have argued that terrorists have used airports to get into and even move all over the US. This has created various debates on what should be done to ensure more security in airports. This paper looks into the agencies that have to cooperate to ensure safety in the airports. These agencies have been working independently, trying to deal with the issue of insecurity in airports. However, a joint effort is the best option to deal with insecurity in airports. Several challenges that have been faced and can be solved by joining forces have also been discussed.


Diplomatic wrangles that have led to acts of terrorism have made airports and port key focus points for terrorists. Due to this, Elias (2009) argues that various agencies have to come together to enhance the security levels in these two mentioned points. This paper will look into the cooperation of various agencies in an attempt to tighten the security in airports and in aviation in general.

Agencies involved in airport security

The airport personnel

The airport personnel is the first agency that has the responsibility to ensure security in the airport. Airport personnel include the security guards that the airport has hired and the staff. Some of the things that the airport personnel does in relation to security include frisking the passengers and anyone else in the airport, checking the luggage, keeping an eye on anyone who is not supposed to be in the airport, keeping an eye on the passengers to reduce conflict, reporting any person who is trying to travel and has been denied access, and arresting and holding anyone who, for obvious reasons, is considered to be a terrorist or a criminal.

The first thing that the airport personnel have to do is to confirm the identity of the passengers. Rodriguez (2008) explains that many criminals have been caught trying to flee using fake passports and other documents. Checking and confirming documents not only highlights terrorists and criminals, but it also highlights illegal immigrants.

Airports have upgraded their technology to make this process easier. Many airports, including the John F. Kennedy, Los Angeles International Airport and O’Hare International Airport, among others, have adopted the biometric technology of identifying their passengers. Biometrics include checking fingerprints, scanning the retina and at times even checking facial patterns to confirm that the individual is who they say they are.

Elias (2009) adds that many airports are also trying to adopt CAPPS II technology. This is the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System. This technology will require passengers to give detailed information about themselves when they are booking their flights. Currently, identity is confirmed just before the passenger boards the aeroplane.

Government agencies

The government agencies also have a role to play in airport security. Salter (2008) explains that many people do not understand the role of the government in the airports. However, he goes further and explains that the government is responsible for providing the airport personnel with information on possible terrorists and criminals who would try to travel.

Price and Forrest (2012) add that the government has the means and the resources to know possible terrorists and criminals. The pictures and any other needed documents that are used by the airport authority to confirm the identity of the passengers have to come from government agencies.


The stakeholders are the people who invest or are affected by the business part of the airport. These include the shops, cafeterias, and airlines, among other stakeholders. The stakeholders can provide security by ensuring that they work hand in hand with the airport authority. For example, criminals are known to change money at airports (Rodriguez, 2008). The forex bureau owners have an obligation to report any suspicious individuals to the airport authority. The airport authority will then determine whether the person is a suspect or not.


The passengers also have a responsibility and a role to play in security in aviation. The passengers are responsible for reporting other suspicious passengers and working with the airport authority to ensure security. The passengers have to agree to be frisked and their luggage to be checked in the bid to identify criminals.

How cooperation can be fostered

As mentioned, cooperation between all the mentioned agencies has to be fostered to enhance security. Elias (2010) explains that the airport authority needs to cooperate with the government to enhance security because the government agencies are the only agencies that can provide the legal documents of the passengers. Williams (2007) agrees that airports have spent a lot of money on upgrading their technology.

However, the technology only uses databases that the government gives the airport authorities. This is the reason a criminal will be flagged down when they are trying to board a plane. The government agencies usually send a picture and a request for arrest for the criminal in question. The pictures of other criminals are also provided to airport authority from the government bureaus.

An example of a criminal who was arrested due to cooperation between the government agencies and the airport authority is Kevin Brown. Brown, a former veteran who was suspected of having turned a criminal, was caught at Orlando International Airport with luggage that had bomb-making material. This arrest happened in 2008. The airport authorities argued that the passengers were not under any danger as Brown did not assemble the parts together. He appeared to want to travel with the parts. GAO (2009) explains that there have been no big arrests that have made in airports, other than the case of Brown.

It is important to note that the cooperation between the agencies is limiting and this is the reason why more arrests have not been made. Terrorists have entered the United States of America via airports. This clearly states that there is not enough security in aviation.

The relationship and the cooperation between the mentioned agencies can be smoothened by the creation of a team of security personnel that represent the four agencies. Currently, the government agencies have their own personnel, the stakeholders have their own personnel, and the airport authority also has their own security personnel. Creation of a body that works for all the agencies will make work easier for the security personnel in general.

It is also important to mention that the cooperation can be made almost perfect through an agreement on rules and guidelines for the newly formed security force. The rules and guidelines have to be discussed by representatives from the four agencies.

It is prudent that all the agencies be represented for their needs to be heard and considered. For example, the airport authority can suggest that the government provide a task force that can arrest the criminals. However, the government might not be in a position to provide a task force for all the airports in the country. Due to this, another suggestion would be made to fill this gap.

Challenges to the cooperation of the agencies

The cooperation of agencies has never worked because of various challenges. The first challenge, as mentioned, is the autonomy of the agencies. Each agency has been working on the issue of security in aviation alone. In fact, the agencies that have been working together for the longest time are the government agencies and the airport authority. However, their relationship has also been challenged due to lack of proper structures of authority.

Another challenge is corruption. Salter (2008) explains that many an occasion, the criminals have bribed airport authority, stakeholders, and even the government agencies to allow them into and out of the country. The issue of corruption has proven difficult to control because of the autonomy of the agencies in the sense that a criminal can bribe airport personnel to allow them to fly into and out of the US and the government agencies or the passengers would not know about it.

In the same breadth, if a criminal were to bribe a government agent to remove their name and picture from the no-flight list, the people at the airport would not be able to know. This can, however, be avoided by using one security unit. This does not mean that the criminals will not try to bribe the security agents who have been employed; however, it will be much easier to hold people accountable for such incidences.

The suggestions that have been given to enable the cooperation between the agencies to be more effective can also be applied in solving the challenges that the cooperation faced in the past. Salter (2008) also adds that enhancing accountability in all the agencies will help enhance security in the airports. This means that people must be held accountable for their actions. Incidences should be thoroughly investigated in order to fish out the corrupt agents in all the agencies.


In conclusion, there have been problems making agencies cooperate in an attempt to enhance security in the airports. These problems have been caused by the fact that the agencies have focused on fighting security issues independently. One of the ways in which the agencies can cooperate is by having one security unit. This would mean that the four agencies mentioned, government agencies, airport agencies, passengers, and stakeholders, come up with one security unit that can be used in all airports.

One of the challenges that have mired the cooperation of agencies in aviation security is corruption. This can also be reduced by having one security unit that represents all the agencies involved. The four agencies mentioned above have to provide guidelines and rules that are specific to the security unit for the security unit to function as expected and efficiently. The four agencies can also ensure that the management of the security unit is unbiased and uncompromised.


Elias, B. (2009). Airport passenger screening: Background and issues for congress. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Web.

Elias, B. (2010). Airport and aviation security: U.S. policy and strategy in the age of global terrorism. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Web.

GAO (2009). . United States Government Accountability Office. Report to Congressional Requesters. Web.

Price, J., & Forrest, J. (2012). Practical aviation security: Predicting and preventing future threats. Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann. Web.

Rodriguez, B. M. (2008). Perception towards airport security as it relates to terrorism: An analysis of criminology/criminal justice majors and non majors. Arlington, TX: University of Texas. Web.

Salter, M. B. ed. (2008). Politics at the airport. Minneapolis, MN: The University of Minnesota Press. Web.

Williams, C. G. (2007). It came from airport security. San Francisco, CA: Creative Commons. Web.

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