The Price Of Security Since 9/11

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It's much harder to get into places like Ohio Stadium since the 9/11 terror attacks.(Photo: OZinOH (Flickr))
It's much harder to get into places like Ohio Stadium since the 9/11 terror attacks.(Photo: OZinOH (Flickr))

Since September 11, 2001, security has changed. It’s increased dramatically at airports, power plants, and other so-called points of interest around the country. It’s hard to pinpoint just how much those security increases have cost, but political scientist John Mueller from Ohio State University thinks he’s come pretty close.

“The increase of expenditures accumulated since 9/11 is well over a trillion dollars,” Mueller says.

One trillion increases, not including security that was already in place. That trillion dollars also does not include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: it’s just domestic spending increases on things like tightening security at reservoirs, or buying mass casualty buses.

Yes, mass casualty buses, like the one now parked at Port Columbus, paid for by a Homeland Security grant. Bruce Sindledecker is a medic with the Columbus Regional Airport Authority’s fire department. He says the bus is gassed up and ready to go anywhere in central Ohio.

“I’m just throwing things out here: a biological issue, or a bomb that went off or may go off. This bus would provide tactical and tangible support for the fire department whose area it is,” Sindledecker says.

It maybe capable of doing all those things, but the nearly $200,000 bus has not been used a single time since it arrived at the airport three years ago. Still, the airport authority’s director of public safety, John Rockwell, defends the purchase.

“I always hesitate to say we’re safe cause you can’t guarantee that anywhere, but I think from the perspective of what we’ve done to cope with that concern, I think the citizens can be very confident that we’ve done everything we can to address the security concerns,” Rockwell says.

Of course airports became the poster child for security increases immediately after 9/11. But over the next few years, undercover police and metal detectors starting showing up in new places, including one of Columbus’ biggest institutions.

With more than 100,000 fans crowding into Ohio Stadium for OSU football games several times a year, police and campus officials realized after 9/11 just how vulnerable massive gatherings like football games were. The FBI started paying for agents sweep the stadium before games, and pat downs went from occasional to the norm. Richard Morman is deputy chief of the OSU police department. He didn’t want to give his exact budget, but he says security for OSU football games has gone up dramatically over the last decade.

“So if you think in terms of circles, by the time a fan arrives in a parking lot and gets to the stadium, they’ve probably gone 3 or 4 different security perimeters,” Morman says. “Before, you would just arrive and maybe pass police officers directing traffic and you would just have police officers inside the stadium for security reasons.”

Despite upgrades at perceived targets like Port Columbus and Ohio Stadium, and mobile hospitals ready to go on a moment’s notice, political scientist John Mueller says the trillion dollars in spending hasn’t necessarily made us safer. He points to what he calls probability neglect: where Homeland Security officials identify what could be a threat, and just throw money at a possible solution.

“That doesn’t mean they’re all bad of course; they might have lucked in in some cases,” Mueller says. “But they haven’t done their proper analysis. And we found this pretty shocking because what you’re dealing with here is the most important thing governments do, which is public safety.”