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Aviation Security: Efforts to Measure Effectiveness and Address Challenges

NCJ Number
Cathleen A. Berrick
Date Published
November 2003
36 pages
This document discusses the effectiveness of initiatives in protecting commercial aircraft from threat objects.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented numerous initiatives designed to enhance aviation security, but has collected limited information on the effectiveness of these initiatives in protecting commercial aircraft. Recent work on passenger screening found that little testing or other data exist that measures the performance of screeners in detecting threat objects. But TSA is taking steps to collect data on the effectiveness of its security initiatives, including developing a 5-year performance plan detailing numerous performance measures, as well as implementing several efforts to collect performance data on the effectiveness of passenger screening. TSA has developed a risk management approach to prioritize efforts, assess threats, and focus resources related to its aviation security initiatives, but has not yet fully implemented this approach. A risk management approach is a systematic process to analyze threats, vulnerabilities, and the criticality of assets to better support key decisions. TSA faces a number of programmatic and management challenges as it continues to enhance aviation security. These include the implementation of the new computer-assisted passenger prescreening system, as well as strengthening baggage screening, airport perimeter and access controls, air cargo, and general aviation security. TSA must also manage the costs associated with aviation security and address human capital challenges, such as sizing its workforce as efficiency is improved with security-enhancing technologies - including the integration of explosive detection systems into in-line baggage-handling systems. Further challenges in sizing its workforce may be encountered if airports are granted permission to opt out of using Federal screeners. 41 footnotes