With news today of the JetSki’er able to claim the fence and access the airport JFK the question of airport perimeter security is again raised.
The first thing we need to look at in this case is what happened. JFK has a perimeter intrusion defense system which is supposed to notify security personnel of a potential intrusion. Did the system work? Did the system interpret the individual as an annoyance alarm such as a small animal or a piece of debris hitting the fence? Did the individual monitoring the system step away for a moment? At this point we do not know so it’s too early to speculate on what needs to happen there.
What we do know is that the aviation security layered system did work in this case. While we don’t know if one of the layers failed, the individual was spotted on the airfield and stopped by an airline employee. Anyone working on a commercial service airport who possesses an airport identification badge is required to challenge any other person they see without proper identification – this case it seems the system worked.
This brings into question the greater issue of perimeter security. If the intrusion system did fail, then it needs to be fixed. If the intrusion systems are not at a level where they can properly detect intrusions, then other layers in the system, such as airfield patrol by armed and unarmed personnel and closed-circuit TV monitoring, may have to be strengthened.
But what about security at other airports? There has been a call for a national standard for perimeter security at airports. However, we already have standards for perimeter security as set forth by the TSA. So now the question is, should we have a higher standard. This is a harder question. First, you have to take a look at how frequently airport and aircraft are attacked by individuals penetrating through the fence line. The answer is, not very often.
I know there will be the standard argument of, “why wait until it happens,” but we also need to look at the reality that if there is a vulnerability it has likely already been assessed by our enemies. And if there is a glaring vulnerability why is it yet to be exploited? We are not yet living in a complete war zone such as they do in Israel, where their airport perimeter defenses are very robust. Hopefully, we will never have to live in that world.
I think at this point each airport should revisit their vulnerability assessments and implement additional perimeter security where warranted. In the case of New York, their airports in fact go far above TSA standards in most every area. This could be a failure of one layer of the system but not a failure of the system itself. We are lucky in this case that it was a lost JetSki’er rather than an individual with criminal intent.
However, where were his friends when his JetSki quit leaving him to swim to shore? Was this probing or truly a lost individual. Regardless, and as always, the bad guys read the papers too. They will watch how this is handled.