Tags: GAO | TSA | Air | cargo | inspect

GAO Reports TSA Progress in Screening Cargo

Saturday, 21 Mar 2009 04:36 AM

By Dave Eberhart

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has made progress in meeting the air cargo screening mandate as it applies to domestic cargo, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported this week.

“TSA has taken several key steps to meet the mandate, including establishing a new requirement for 100 percent screening of cargo transported on narrow-body aircraft; revising or eliminating most screening exemptions for domestic cargo; creating the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP) to allow screening to take place at various points in the air cargo supply chain; and establishing a screening technology pilot,” cited the GAO inspectors in a report to Congress.

Although TSA estimates that it achieved the mandated 50 percent screening level by February 2009 as it applies to domestic cargo, GAO reported that the agency cannot yet verify that the requisite levels of cargo are being screened. It is working to establish a system to do so by April 2009.

The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 mandates

the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a system to physically screen 50 percent of cargo transported on passenger aircraft by February 2009 and 100 percent of such cargo by August 2010.

According to the report provided to the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, Committee on Homeland Security, GAO reviewed TSA’s air cargo security programs, interviewed program officials and industry representatives, and visited two large U.S. airports.

Although the report was generally favorable, the GAO inspectors voiced some reservations about the progress TSA has made to date.

Inspectors noted, for instance, that TSA’s approach relies on the voluntary participation of shippers and freight forwarders, but it is unclear whether the facilities needed to meet TSA’s screening estimates will join the CCSP.

In addition, TSA has taken some steps to develop and test technologies for screening air cargo, but the agency has not yet completed assessments of these technologies and cannot be assured that they are effective in the cargo environment.

“TSA’s limited inspection resources may also hamper its ability to oversee the thousands of additional entities that it expects to participate in the CCSP,” said the authors of the report.

Finally, noted the report, TSA does not expect to meet the mandated 100 percent screening deadline as it applies to inbound air cargo -- in part due to existing inbound screening exemptions and challenges it faces in harmonizing security standards with other nations.

Of the nearly $4.8 billion appropriated to TSA for aviation security in fiscal year 2009, approximately $123 million is directed for air cargo security activities.

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