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Aviation Security: Challenges Exist in Stabilizing and Enhancing Passenger and Baggage Screening Operations

NCJ Number
Cathleen A. Berrick
Date Published
February 2004
41 pages
This testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure reports on the U.S. General Accounting Office's (GAO's) assessment of the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA's) progress in airline passenger and baggage screening operations.
The assessment focused on TSA's efforts to hire and deploy passenger and baggage screeners, train the screening workforce, measure screener performance in detecting threat objects, and leveraging and deploying screening equipment and technologies. The study found that TSA met its mandate to establish a Federal screener workforce by November 2002, but it continues to face challenges in hiring and deploying passenger and baggage screeners. Staffing shortages at some airports and TSA's hiring process have hindered TSA's ability to staff screening checkpoints without using additional measures, such as overtime. TSA has taken steps to enhance its screener training programs, but staffing shortages and lack of high-speed connectivity at airport training facilities have made it difficult for screeners at some airports to use these programs fully. Although TSA has undertaken several initiatives to measure the performance of passenger screeners in detecting threat objects, it has collected only limited performance data related to its baggage screening operation; however, efforts are underway to collect additional performance data in this area. TSA also continues to face challenges in deploying and leveraging screening equipment and technologies. It deployed Explosive Detection Systems and Explosive Trace Detection equipment to all airports to screen checked baggage, but it has been unable to use this equipment to screen 100 percent of checked baggage due to equipment being out of service for maintenance and/or repairs and due to screener shortages. When this equipment is not available, TSA continues to screen checked baggage by using alternative means. TSA has ongoing initiatives intended to increase the efficiency of screening checked baggage, including implementing in-line baggage screening systems and streamlining screening processes. TSA is conducting research and development activities to strengthen passenger and baggage screening. The GAO has several ongoing reviews related to the issues addressed in this testimony, and it will issue separate reports related to these areas at later dates, with additional recommendations as appropriate. 3 tables