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Airport Security, High Reliability, and the Problem of Rationality

H. George Frederickson and Todd R. LaPorte
Public Administration Review
Vol. 62, Special Issue: Democratic Governance in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001 (Sep., 2002), pp. 33-43
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3110168
Page Count: 11
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Airport Security, High Reliability, and the Problem of Rationality
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Abstract

The events of September 11, 2001, have raised troubling questions regarding the reliability and security of American commercial air travel. This article applies the concepts and logic of high-reliability organizations to airport security operations. Contemporary decision theory is built on the logic of limited or buffered rationability and is based on the study of error-tolerant organizations. The concept of high-reliability organizations is based on the study of nearly error-free operations. For commercial air travel to be highly secure, there must be very high levels of technical competence and sustained performance; regular training; structure redundancy; collegial, decentralized authority patterns; processes that reward error discovery and correction; adequate and reliable funding; high mission valence; reliable and timely information; and protection from external interference in operations. These concepts are used to inform early-stage issues being faced by both local airports and the newly established Transportation Security Administration.

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