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You Won’t Believe The Grotesque Government Waste That Went Into A TSA App

Nothing screams “government efficiency” quite like a massive, wasted stack of cash.

The TSA recently provided a government contract to tech superpower IBM that involved the creation of an app that allowed TSA agents to randomly separate airport visitors into two lines. The app development would be an extremely simple task for any experienced programmer to work on, it’s the coding version of a coin flip.

The app works by running a generator and then pointing an arrow left or right.  It would actually be ideal for a beginning coder, as people who have just begun experimenting with programming will often create apps similar to this because working with the random numbers and variables is essential experience.

So how much did the TSA pay out for this relatively simple task?

On the lower end, just over $333,000. For something that a computer science undergraduate could likely have created.


The actual price tag could actually be drastically higher. The contract as a whole cost as much as 1.4 million dollars. It’s possible that IBM could have provided the iPads required, along with any training or additional app development. Regardless, the cost is grossly overblown when you consider that the average ‘small’ app costs less than $7,000. Even if the app was much more difficult to create than a simple random generator, the cost should still not come close to the grotesque three hundred thousand dollar mark.

We’re sure that if the TSA had been looking into companies other than a major corporation like IBM, then they could have found a nice small business willing to create the same program for a much better deal.

You can view the app at work below.

Featured Image via Sean MacEntee, available under a Creative Commons license

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Written by Benjamin Detiveaux

Ben is a struggling mastermind in the great city of New Orleans. He divides his time between organizing his world empire, working in IT, and pursuing all the sights and sounds of the Crescent City. You can follow him on Twitter @bendetiveaux.