Little research has been developed on the economic security aspect of homeland security, something I’ve long tried to address, both previously as senior economist at the DHS Private Sector Office, and in my current work.

This past week, I presented a paper at the Eastern Economics Association (EEA) 42nd Annual Conference in Washington, DC. EEA’s mission is to promote educational and scholarly exchange on economic affairs, and conference presenters generally hail from academia, with smaller numbers from governments, unions, and non-profit organizations. Seldom seen are folks from the private sector, and so I was pleased to offer my analysis on customer satisfaction and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening.

Using 2014 customer service data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, I discussed how DHS and the private sector, by using data, can simultaneously improve security and improve revenues. Analysis showed that between 25 and 124 jobs can be created annually as a result of increased spending at the largest airports here in the United States—if we can improve customer satisfaction.

We can do this by encouraging the creation of public-private partnerships, which work when each party has something to gain. In this case, airports can gain additional revenue, resulting in job creation. Meanwhile, homeland security agencies see benefit through improved screening.

During audience discussion, Oren Shmuel, a PhD candidate in economics at the City University of New York, suggested another approach (regression analysis) to test whether improving customer service can increase airport revenue. This is precisely the kind of discussion we need to be having because it moves towards the importance of using data to inform decision making and improvements in homeland security processes. Obtaining 2015 data from TSA and CBP will help identify multiple phenomena that can improve the customer experience and capture the economic rewards that brings. Stay tuned.