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The TSA Spent $56.8 Billion To Keep Us Safe. Did It Work?

The Transportation Security Administration has spent $56.8 billion on air travel since 9/11. Here, a look at who's getting a cut, and whether it's really paying off.

NUMEROLOGY | Will $56.8 Billion Keep Us Safe? Popup-Icon

Amount: $30 million for machines that puffed air onto travelers and "sniffed" them for explosive residue. Deployment stopped in 2006, after they were deemed slow and unreliable.
Verdict: Not Worth It

Amount: $1.2 billion to fund the Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing Program (since 2005), which includes employee background checks. Nonetheless, two TSA agents were busted in February for stealing $160,000 in cash from checked bags.
Verdict: Still Worth It

Amount: $13.5 billion to employ human screeners (since 2007), who have intercepted some 50 million carry-on dangers, including hacksaws, nunchucks, and alligators. The most popular excuse: "Someone else packed my bags for me."
Verdict: Worth It

Amount: $2.8 billion for explosives-detection equipment (since 2007) from companies such as General Electric and L-3 Communications, which in July thwarted one man's plan to fly with a half-ounce of C4.
Verdict: Worth It

Amount: $122 million for full-body scanners from Brijot Imaging Systems, L-3 Communications, Rapiscan Systems, and others. Although the x-ray images aren't supposed to be stored or saved, 100 leaked onto the Internet last November.
Verdict: Tenuously Worth It

Amount: $35 million to retrain human screeners following traveler complaints in 2008. Among the dispensed advice: "Smile, be pleasant, and send positive emotions."
Verdict: Not Worth It

Amount: $103.5 million to breed and train the bomb-sniffing dogs in this year's Puppy Program, which could reduce the need for invasive pat-downs.
Verdict: Maybe Worth It

Amount: $5.5 billion to train and employ air marshals—though the TSA won't reveal how many flights they staff. Per its website, "We should not let terrorists know the mathematical probability" of encountering one.
Verdict: Maybe Worth It

Infographic by Romualdo Faura

A version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.