Via the most excellent Bruce Schneier.
Mark Stewart and John Mueller of the Center for Infrastructure Performance And Reliability, have released a report “Assessing the risks, costs and benefits of United States aviation security measures“.
You hear it over and over again: “If it just saves one life then it’s worth it.”
Sometimes, in fact more often than not, it’s not worth it. Not because life is cheap, but because the costs are too high.
This paper seeks to discover whether aviation security measures are cost-effective by considering their effectiveness, their cost and expected lives saved as a result of such expenditure. An assessment of the Federal Air Marshal Service suggests that the annual cost is $180 million per life saved. This is greatly in excess of the regulatory safety goal of $1-$10 million per life saved. As such, the air marshal program would seem to fail a cost-benefit analysis. In addition, the opportunity cost of these expenditures is considerable, and it is highly likely that far more lives would have been saved if the money had been invested instead in a wide range of more cost-effective risk mitigation programs. On the other hand, hardening of cockpit doors has an annual cost of only $800,00 per life saved, showing that this is a cost-effective security measure.
$180 million per (theoretical) life saved. Do you know anyone worth $180 million? I sure don’t.
I know a much cheaper way to provide security on airliners.
Eliminate the Sky Marshal program and let concealed carry licensees take care of it.