Innovation for Homeland Security

by francine Hardaway on February 6, 2011

Dear Janet Napolitano,

I’m from the entrepreneurship community and I am here to help. We entrepreneurs are trained to see problems as opportunities, and to think of ways we can make money by solving them,often with the help of technology.

You have a problem with airport security. I know this because I fly at least once a month on business. I am always detained, scanned or felt up because in 2006 I had a hip replacement — a dandy piece of titanium that sets off your metal detector every time. By the way, the information about my surgery is widely known: it’s in the online databases of hospitals and insurers, and for good measure I blogged about it. You should know it by now, too.

Since that hip replacement, I have flown about 60 times. Each time, I purposely violate one of the rules for carry-on luggage. Since I am stopped to be wanded anyway, I find this a helpful diversion.

Most of the time, my luggage goes right through on the belt, violations uninspected or undetected, although my liquids, a nail file, even a bottle of water are hidden in it, or I haven’t removed my laptop.

Just this morning, my new MacBook Air went sailing through inside my suitcase undetected.

And yet, the inspection lines at airports are long and the passengers disgruntled, padding around in their socks. Your rules have achieved little, except to prove themselves useless and unenforceable.

Think about it: all the information you ever need about me as a traveler is already in a multitude of databases belonging to the airlines, Medicare, even TripIt. Just looking at Google casually could tell you I’m not dangerous.

And yet you scan and re-scan me endlessly, wasting both of our time and resources.

I see an opportunity here for you, the government, to make some money. How about charging me a fee to issue me a certification, signed also by my physician, that says I have a hip replacement, have already been scanned 120 times, and am a proven safe traveler.

I am a data point. You could scale to real revenue by similarly charging every person who has an implant or a pacemaker.

And we people with bionic body parts are only the low-hanging fruit. There is a much larger market: the corporate traveler. This weary man or woman may fly as often as once or twice a week!

For these folks, create an option to “upgrade to premium,” and charge that to their corporations. Corporations don’t hire terrorists, because they have the money to do proper background checks.

Ask the corporation to pay a flat annual fee per traveler, or have them reimburse their employees the way they reimburse taxi fares and tolls.

Doing this might cost a few TSA feel-up jobs, but it would also increase revenue to the government without raising taxes. Raising taxes causes corporations to re-locate to the Caymans, but charging a “minor” user fee is the way the private sector balances its own budget. (see banking)

You can bootstrap this new venture, Janet, until it gets to market and begins to break even for you and generate revenue. It is the least expensive revenue opportunity I have seen in years of mentoring entrepreneurs.

Oh, and I almost forgot to say that it might also change the world, at least for travelers. And that is what the best innovations do.
(h/t Brad Olman)

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