— Volume V No. 1: January 2009 —

Just How Much Does That Cost, Anyway? An Analysis of the Financial Costs and Benefits of the “No-Fly” List


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Marcus Holmes

Marcus Holmes is a PhD candidate in political science at Ohio State University. He received his BA from the University of Virginia, MA from Georgetown University’s program in communication, culture & technology, and holds an honors certificate in international business diplomacy from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. His research interests are in international relations and political psychology with particular emphasis on social neuroscientific insights into politics. Mr. Holmes can be contacted at holmes.504@osu.edu.

This article conducts a financial cost and security benefit analysis of the United States government’s “no fly” list. On September 11, 2001 the no fly list contained sixteen names of terrorists and other individuals deemed threatening to the U.S. Since then, the list has grown considerably, reaching over 755,500+ names at one point. This growth has led to significant attention paid to the social costs of the list, from the civil liberty concerns about being detained at airports and prevented from flying, to privacy concerns about the government maintaining a classified list of individuals who have difficulty being removed from the list once they are on it. Very surprisingly, there has been little attention paid to the financial costs of the list relative to the benefits. This is striking given the significant amount of attention paid by scholars and policy analysts to anti-terror and national security strategies. Fundamentally, it is unclear how one can create a strategy for how national security dollars should be spent without knowing how many dollars are involved and where they are going. The study presented here puts forth a conservative estimate of cost at approximately $536 million since September 11, 2001, with a reasonable estimation range that approaches $1 billion. This study should be viewed as a first step in asking and answering an important question: what are the costs, relative to the benefits, of anti-terrorism policies and security strategies?

Read full article.

Holmes, Marcus. “Just How Much Does That Cost, Anyway? An Analysis of the Financial Costs and Benefits of the “No-Fly” List.” Homeland Security Affairs 5, issue 1 (January 2009)