TSA Sets New Coding Standard: $47,000 Per Hour for iPad Apps

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Sometime in the dim past, the TSA needed a way to randomly assign passengers to the pre-check boarding line. The solution was an iPad app that randomly points left or right when an agent taps the screen. This app, which Kevin Burke says “a beginner could build in a day,” was coded by IBM and cost the taxpayers a cool $47,000.

That seems like a lot. But could it really be coded in a day? Or is that just snark? Well, in case you’re curious, here’s the program:

I left out a bit of routine housekeeping stuff, and I didn’t bother writing the functions to display the arrows—which probably wouldn’t be more than a few lines each. That said, Burke is being generous. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or so to write.

I’ve never written an iPad app, but I would have learned from scratch if I knew I could make 47 large out of the deal. I would have expensed the Idiot’s Guide to iPad Programming, though, so call it $47,039.95. The government sure is weird sometimes.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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