Many travelers hate the Transportation Security Administration. Long lines, uncomfortable searches, having to take off our shoes, on and on the list goes. Besides personal discomfort to travelers, the TSA has also been accused of being wasteful. Case in point, the organization spent at least $336,000 dollars to develop its “randomizer” app that determines which line people go in while using the TSA Pre-Check in. Total costs for the project actually reached $1.4 million dollars, and was paid to IBM.

In theory, by randomizing which lanes people go in, it makes it impossible for people to influence which lines they themselves end up in. This is important for security purposes, as someone trying to get past security might try to get into a certain line. Random checks and random searchers are only effective if they are truly random.

Never seen the app in action? The app is extremely simple. A TSA agent simply taps the screen of an iPad and a large arrow appears, pointing left or right.

Admittedly, the app is easy to use, quick, and appears to be quite reliable.

$336,000 dollars might not seem too bad for an app, especially when one remembers that the government generally has higher standards and more strict quality and security control. One of the reason materials and other things governments buy seem to cost so much is because everything has to be rigorously tested to ensure that there will be no failures.

High testing costs will certainly inflate prices for apps and other things.

Problem is, obtaining random numbers (and in this case also arrows) is an extremely easy task in programming. Many “programming for children” courses will feature exercises in which kids build such simple apps. In most programming languages, the basic functionality boils down to a few simple lines of code. Sure, a child might not be able to build an app that has been rigorously tested to meet the government's standards, but just about any programmer can build a basic “randomizer” app.

So, even with all the extra conditions and testing that government apps will have to undergo, $336,00 dollars seems quite expensive for what is ultimately a very basic program. IBM received a total of $1.4 million, by the way, but it remains unclear what the total parameters of the project included. It's possible that IBM may provide iPads or other training.

Outsourcing and privatizing various functions of government has long been touted as a way for the Federal government and other levels of government to lower their costs.

In theory, working with private sector companies should deliver the cost efficiency of the market. In practice, however, it's a question of whether the bidding system is truly competitive and if market efficiency is actually being delivered.

TSA already suffers from bad reputation

The TSA has come under fire for plenty of other issues in the past. Previous studies conducted by the administration itself has found that undercover TSA agents were able to successfully smuggle weapons,bombs, and contraband past security 96 percent of the time.

So even after millions have been spent on scanners and apps, actually getting weapons past the gates is relatively easy.

The TSA has also come under fire for forcing mothers to drink breast milk, playing video games on the job, and getting too personal when going through people's luggage. Unsurprisingly, various polls have found the TSA to suffer from generally poor approval ratings.

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