The events of September 11, 2001 changed not just America, but the world as a whole. The ways in which lives have changed depend on where one lives, with some of the most profound changes apparent in New York City, Bagdad, and Kabul.
For most of us in America, 9/11 was an awakening to a new age of global awareness and concern, if not fear. It also ushered in security procedures that we are now subject to and experience daily or from time to time. For the security industry, the aftereffects have been a total win. Customer spending has increased dramatically, innovation has accelerated, respect and professionalism have improved, and investment has grown. It has been an exciting and fast-growing industry to be in for much of the nearly nine years since. But what has all of this development of the security industry done for the general populace of our country? Recent events and reports have brought to mind a way in which we are better and way in which we are worse.
For the average U.S. citizen, it can be argued that we are now safer than ever. We’ve experienced no meaningful terrorist attack since 9/11. The periodic reports we hear of terrorist plots being foiled reinforce our confidence in the new Homeland Security efforts working better than in the 20th century. An article in Security magazine this month cites statistics that violent crime and property crime declined over the course of the last decade and attributes some of the improvement to superior security technologies and increased use of security products and services. Being safer is certainly one way we are better off since 9/11.
We are worse off in this country (and elsewhere) because of the financial burden we now bear. While the war is an enormous cost that nearly all of us are attuned to, there is also a public spending on security that has been a huge drain on resources and hampers governments’ abilities to provide other needed functions. A recent example is found in the G8 and G20 Summits in Canada in June. The price tag for security: an astounding $1 billion for the 3-day summits. This is a huge increase over costs in prior years. One would likely conclude that either too much was spent or that the spending was appropriate. Many in Ontario and throughout the country claim a grossly excessive amount was allocated for security. But some security experts say the spend level was appropriate for the threat level. The threat level is much higher in this post-9/11 environment so as to justify more security. But no matter what you feel about the amount spent, $1 billion was spent and has to be paid for by Canadian taxpayers
Here at home we have our own examples of large amounts spent for securing our nation in this new age. Airports and border security have been huge money vacuums. More generally, appropriations for the DHS (created in response to 9/11) have been ever growing and are staggering: $55 billion in 2010, up from $40 billion just five years ago. You could argue this spending is appropriate for the threat level. A recent and intriguing report by the Washington Post (“Top Secret America”) suggests otherwise, in claiming that DHS has become so huge it is unwieldy, inefficient, and immeasurable, ultimately meaning it is not effective. Again, whether it is working or not, it is still costing U.S. taxpayers $55 billion this year. And that’s a lot of money that could be put back in our pockets, used for other government programs such as improving our floundering educational system, or applied towards reducing our nation’s $13 trillion debt.
For Americans, this enormous public spending on security programs, projects and technologies is an unfortunate change for the worse. These are just two ways that 9/11 and the resulting security efforts have affected us as citizens. If we’re going to spend all this money, I sure hope we ARE safer and don’t just feel that way.