According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), U.S. airlines and foreign airlines serving the United States carry about 900 million passengers per year systemwide on more than 9 million flights (domestic and international). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projects that the total number of enplanements will grow to 1.2 billion by 2036. More than 400,000 Americans work in the airline industry. There are more than 5,100 public-use airports in the United States. The busiest airport in the United States (in terms of passenger count) — Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson — has more than 2,700 flights arrive and depart each day. More and more Americans are leaving the ranks of those who have never flown. And that is a good thing, since, on the basis of statistics of deaths per million miles traveled, it is much, much safer to fly than to drive a car or ride a motorcycle.
But in conjunction with the increasing number of airline flights and airline passengers and the decreasing number of crashes and fatalities associated with airline travel, airports remain under government control. Government at some level controls not only the security at airports, but the airports themselves.
The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) was created by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 that was passed with only minuscule opposition in the U.S. House of Representatives and signed into law by George W. Bush on November 19, 2001. It amended federal transportation law to make the TSA responsible for security in all modes of transportation, including:
(1) civil aviation security, and related research and development activities;
(2) security responsibilities over other modes of transportation that are exercised by DOT;
(3) day-to-day federal security screening operations for passenger air transportation and intrastate air transportation;
(4) policies, strategies, and plans for dealing with threats to transportation;
(5) domestic transportation during a national emergency (subject to the secretary of Transportation's control and direction), including aviation, rail, and other surface transportation, and maritime transportation, and port security; and
(6) management of security information, including notifying airport or airline security officers of the identity of individuals known to pose a risk of air piracy or terrorism or a threat to airline or passenger safety.
Although the TSA was originally part of the Department of Transportation (DOT), after the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the TSA was transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003.
According to the TSA website, the agency's mission is to "protect the nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce." Its vision is to "provide the most effective transportation security in the most efficient way as a high performing counterterrorism organization." Its core values are "integrity, innovation, and team spirit." Its work-force expectations are "hard work, professionalism, and integrity." The TSA employs about 55,000 people and has a budget of more than
$7 billion a year.