Terrorism Risks and Cost-Benefit Analysis of Aviation Security


Mark G. Stewart, Centre for Infrastructure Performance and Reliability, The University of Newcastle, New South Wales, 2308, Australia;


We evaluate, for the U.S. case, the costs and benefits of three security measures designed to reduce the likelihood of a direct replication of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. To do so, we assess risk reduction, losses, and security costs in the context of the full set of security layers. The three measures evaluated are installed physical secondary barriers (IPSB) to restrict access to the hardened cockpit door during door transitions, the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), and the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) Program. In the process, we examine an alternate policy measure: doubling the budget of the FFDO program to $44 million per year, installing IPSBs in all U.S. aircraft at a cost of $13.5 million per year, and reducing funding for FAMS by 75% to $300 million per year. A break-even cost-benefit analysis then finds the minimum probability of an otherwise successful attack required for the benefit of each security measures to equal its cost. We find that the IPSB is costeffective if the annual attack probability of an otherwise successful attack exceeds 0.5% or one attack every 200 years. The FFDO program is costeffective if the annual attack probability exceeds 2%. On the other hand, more than two otherwise successful attacks per year are required for FAMS to be costeffective. A policy that includes IPSBs, an increased budget for FFDOs, and a reduced budget for FAMS may be a viable policy alternative, potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars per year with consequences for security that are, at most, negligible.