Transportation Security Administration Faces Immediate and Long-Term Challenges
Gao ID: GAO-02-971T July 25, 2002
Since September 11, the safety and security of the nation's civil aviation system have taken on greater urgency. GAO found that the newly created Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has assumed responsibility for aviation security and has focused on meeting congressionally mandated deadlines for strengthening aviation security. So far, TSA has developed plans and implemented procedures for using federal employees to conduct security screening at more than 400 commercial airports; hired and begun to train nearly 4,000 key security personnel; and undertaken more rigorous background checks of workers with access to secure areas at airports. TSA faces immediate challenges in assuming responsibility for security in other modes of transportation, improving the performance of screeners, and addressing aviation security issues not covered by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act's current-year deadlines. TSA also faces long-term organizational challenges, including strategically managing its workforce, controlling costs, and sharing threat information.
GAO-02-971T, Aviation Security: Transportation Security Administration Faces Immediate and Long-Term Challenges
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United States General Accounting Office:
Before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S.
For Release on Delivery:
Expected at 9:30 a.m. EDT:
Thursday July 25, 2002:
Transportation Security Administration Faces Immediate and Long-Term
Statement of Gerald L. Dillingham:
Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues:
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
Nearly a year has passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11
turned commercial aircraft into missiles, killing thousands of people,
destroying billions of dollars‘ worth of property, and realigning our
national priorities. With these attacks, the safety and security of the
nation‘s civil aviation system assumed greater importance, and efforts
to strengthen the system were the subject of much congressional
attention. Through dozens of reports and testimonies published since
the early 1990s (see app. I), we have contributed to the national
discussion on aviation security and to the reforms enacted last
November in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (the act).
[Footnote 1] Among these reforms was the creation of the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA), which was assigned responsibility for
security in aviation and other modes of transportation. The act also
set forth deadlines by which TSA was to implement specific improvements
to aviation security.
We are pleased to be here today to discuss TSA‘s progress in enhancing
aviation security and in implementing the act‘s provisions for
addressing security weaknesses in aviation and other modes of
transportation. Our testimony, which is based on our prior work as well
as our ongoing work for this Committee, includes observations about (1)
what TSA has done since September 11 to strengthen aviation security,
(2) what immediate challenges TSA faces to strengthen transportation
security, and (3) what longer-term challenges TSA can anticipate as it
organizes itself to enhance security in all modes of transportation.
* Since September 11, TSA has assumed responsibility for aviation
security and focused on meeting congressionally mandated deadlines for
strengthening aviation security. TSA‘s accomplishments to date include
developing plans and implementing procedures for using federal workers
to conduct security screening at 429 commercial airports; hiring and
beginning to train almost 4,000 key security personnel; and implementing
more rigorous background checks of employees with access to secure
areas of airports. TSA faces an extraordinary challenge in hiring and
training 33,000 federal workers to conduct passenger security screening
by November 19. As of July 13, TSA had hired only 2,475. In addition,
deploying explosive detection systems to screen all checked bags by
December 31 poses major challenges. Of approximately 1,100 explosive
detection systems and 6,000 explosive trace detection machines TSA plans
to purchase and deploy at 429 airports, only 200 explosive detection
systems and 200 trace detection machines were in use at 56 airports as
of June 12, 2002. It is currently uncertain whether, by December 31,
TSA can purchase the remaining equipment and hire enough staff to
operate and maintain the equipment, whether airports can complete and
pay for any modifications required to install the equipment, and
whether the equipment will operate as intended.
* TSA faces immediate challenges in assuming responsibility for
security in other transportation modes, in improving screeners‘
performance, and in addressing aviation security issues not covered by
the act‘s current-year deadlines. First, while TSA has begun to
coordinate and cooperate with DOT‘s modal administrations and with
other federal agencies, most of the work with these agencies lies
ahead. Second, other aviation security challenges facing TSA include
improving screeners‘ ability to detect weapons and explosives and to
conduct screening in accordance with federal requirements. Recent TSA
tests showed, for example, that screeners at 32 of the nation‘s largest
airports failed to detect fake weapons and explosives in almost a
quarter of the tests, and observations by the DOT Inspector General
found that contract screeners were not consistently following federal
screening requirements. While newly hired federal screeners are being
trained to follow these requirements, contract screeners are still
conducting screening at most U.S. airports and have not received
upgraded training. Third, other actions are required or have been
proposed: for example, the act requires TSA to improve cargo security,
and proposed legislation would require TSA to authorize the arming of
* TSA faces several longer-term challenges as it organizes itself to
protect the nation‘s transportation system. These challenges include
strategically managing the workforce, controlling costs, and sharing
threat information. TSA is charged with creating a federal screener
workforce to replace a private workforce that had been plagued by
performance and retention problems. In addition, long-term attention to
strong systems and controls for acquisition and related business
processes will be critical both to ensuring TSA's success and to
maintaining its integrity and accountability. Such attention includes
establishing cost control mechanisms and monitoring contractors'
performance with respect to cost, schedule, and quality. This is
particularly important because of TSA's large acquisition and personnel
needs. Finally, the agency depends on access to timely, accurate
information about threats, but information sharing among agencies that
gather and maintain such information has been hampered by
organizational cultures that make agencies reluctant to share sensitive
information and by outdated, incompatible computer systems.
The task of securing the nation‘s aviation system is unquestionably
daunting. The enormous size of U.S. airspace defies easy protection.
Furthermore, given this country‘s hundreds of commercial airports,
thousands of planes, and tens of thousands of daily flights, as well as
the seemingly limitless means terrorists or criminals can devise to
attack the system, aviation security must be enforced on numerous
fronts. Safeguarding airplanes and passengers requires, at the least,
ensuring that perpetrators are kept from breaching security checkpoints
and gaining access to aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA), which was responsible for aviation security before TSA was
created, developed several mechanisms to prevent criminal attacks on
aircraft, such as adopting technology to detect explosives and matching
boarding passes to identification cards at the gate to ensure that
passengers are positively identified before boarding a flight.
Despite the development of these preventative measures, we and others
often demonstrated that significant, long-standing aviation security
vulnerabilities existed. These vulnerabilities included inadequate
controls for limiting access to secure areas at airports, failure to
detect threats when screening passengers and their carry-on bags before
they board aircraft, and the absence of any requirement to screen
checked baggage on domestic flights. As we reported in May 2000,
[Footnote 2] our special agents used counterfeit law enforcement badges
and credentials to gain access to secure areas at two airports,
bypassing security checkpoints and walking unescorted to aircraft
departure gates. The agents, who had been issued tickets and boarding
passes, could have carried weapons, explosives, or other dangerous
objects onto aircraft. In addition, FAA‘s tests of screeners found that
their abilities to detect test threat objects located on passengers or
contained in their carry-on luggage declined during the 1980s and
1990s, and this problem persists today.
Over the years, plans were developed to address some of these
vulnerabilities, but they were not implemented promptly or at all. For
example, the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996 authorized a
certification program that would have established performance,
training, and equipment standards for screening companies, but FAA
never issued final regulations for the program. In addition, many
initiatives were not linked to specific deadlines, making it more
difficult to monitor and oversee their implementation.
On November 19, 2001, the Congress passed the Aviation and
Transportation Security Act, which created TSA within the Department of
Transportation (DOT) and defined its primary responsibility as ensuring
security in all modes of transportation. The act also shifted
responsibility for the security screening of air passengers and their
baggage from the airlines to the federal government, making TSA
responsible for overseeing screeners. Finally, the act established a
series of requirements for the new agency with mandated deadlines (see
app. II), the most important of which are:
* to deploy federal screeners at 429 commercial airports across the
nation by November 19, 2002, and;
* to have explosive detection systems in place at these airports for
screening every piece of checked baggage for explosives not later than
December 31, 2002.
Recent proposals would move TSA to the proposed Department of Homeland
To help fund its security initiatives, the act authorized air carriers
to collect a fee for passengers of $2.50 per flight segment, not to
exceed $5.00 per one-way trip or $10.00 per round trip. In addition,
the act authorized the Under Secretary of Transportation Security to
impose a fee on air carriers if revenues from the new security fee were
insufficient to meet the needs mandated by the act. For fiscal year
2002, TSA is seeking a total of $6.8 billion in appropriated funds--
$2.4 billion of which has already been appropriated and an additional
$4.4 billion in supplemental funding.
TSA Has Begun to Address Known Weaknesses in Aviation Security but Is
Having Problems Meeting Key Congressional Deadlines:
TSA has begun addressing weaknesses in aviation security but may
encounter problems in meeting key congressional deadlines. In the 10
months since September 11, TSA has focused on meeting congressionally
mandated deadlines for assuming security responsibilities, upgrading
aviation security measures, and reporting to the Congress on its
progress. Among other accomplishments, TSA has assumed responsibility
for overseeing security screening at 429 commercial airports,
established qualifications for federal screeners, developed a plan to
hire and train federal screeners, contracted with companies that screen
passengers, and overseen the implementation of a variety of federally
approved methods to check all bags for explosives. As of July 13, 2002,
TSA had also hired about 4,000 staff, including nearly 2,500 passenger
screeners, 1,034 former employees of FAA, and 529 other staff. These
other staff included federal security directors for airports,
attorneys, program analysts, computer information technology
specialists, personnel specialists, and administrative staff. In
addition, TSA has made significant progress in expanding the federal
air marshals service.[Footnote 3] Finally, TSA has worked with airlines
to implement critical interim security measures, such as strengthening
However, TSA has encountered problems in responding to the congressional
mandates that it federalize the screener workforce by November 19,
2002, and provide for screening all checked baggage using explosive
detection systems by December 31, 2002.
Difficulties in Hiring and Training Passenger Screeners Pose Challenges
Initial difficulties in hiring and training the passenger screener
workforce will make it challenging for TSA to meet the deadline for
federalizing this workforce.
According to TSA‘s estimates, this effort will involve hiring and
training an estimated 33,000 passenger screeners so that 429 commercial
airports can be staffed with federal screeners. TSA planned to hire
3,700 passenger screeners and supervisory screeners during May and
projected that it would then need to hire and train more than 5,000
passenger screeners a month from June through November. As of July, TSA
had hired only 2,475 screeners in total. Because of delays, the DOT
Inspector General now estimates that TSA will need to hire 7,600
passenger screeners each month to meet the deadline.
TSA Faces Difficulties in Meeting Baggage Screening Deadline:
TSA faces several challenges in trying to provide for screening 100
percent of checked baggage using explosive detection systems by the end
of calendar year 2002. To accomplish this mandate, TSA plans to
purchase and deploy an estimated 1,100 bulk explosive detection systems
(EDS) and 6,000 explosive trace detection machines (trace devices). The
installation of the large EDS equipment may require significant
modifications to airports. As of June 12, 2002, 200 EDS and 200 trace
devices were being used at 56 airports to screen checked baggage. To
expedite installations at other airports, TSA has hired the Boeing
Service Company to (1) conduct site assessments at over 400 airports,
(2) submit proposals to TSA on what equipment each airport will have
and where that equipment will be installed, (3) modify facilities to
accommodate this equipment, (4) install and make the equipment
operational, (5) maintain the equipment, and (6) train approximately
30,000 screeners to operate the equipment. Given the magnitude of this
task, it is unclear whether enough bulk EDS machines can be
manufactured, deployed, and operationally tested and whether enough
staff can be hired and trained to use the bulk EDS and trace devices by
the deadline. Finally, the performance of the existing technologies for
detecting explosives has been less than optimal: for example, the
machines frequently sound false alarms.
Furthermore, TSA's decision to deploy a combination of bulk EDS and
trace devices could have long-term budgetary implications. Although
funding is available for airports to purchase the equipment, no
specific funding has been provided for airport modifications. These
modifications are expected to cost millions of dollars at some major
airports. In addition, TSA's plan to install bulk EDS in airport
lobbies first and then to move them to the baggage handling areas at
certain airports will involve additional costs. It is unclear how much
this relocation will cost or who will pay for it. Furthermore, the
initial procurement costs may quickly be overshadowed by the costs of
the personnel needed to operate the equipment, which might exceed $1.6
billion each year.
Given the cost of procuring, installing, and operating bulk EDS and
trace devices to examine all checked baggage, some security experts and
academicians have suggested that an alternative be considered. These
individuals advocate adopting a risk-based approach that would match
resources to risk levels by establishing a screening process that
begins with passengers and concludes with baggage. First, with the use
of computer-assisted passenger screening,[Footnote 4] they believe that
passengers could be sorted into different risk groups, such as those
who might represent a threat, those about whom little is known, and
those about whom enough is known to make them low risk. Second, baggage-
screening resources could be targeted according to risk. The passengers
who might represent a threat, for instance, could be personally
screened, and all available tools (such as explosive detection
equipment and manual searches) could be used to ensure that no
explosives were present in their checked baggage. The stated advantage
of such an approach is that fewer expensive bulk EDS may be needed and
the costs may be lower than TSA is projecting. In addition, advocates
believe that more cost-effective decisions can be made to replace
equipment as newer technologies become available. Conversely, concerns
have been raised by TSA and others that the suggested approach
increases the risk of not detecting explosives because, for the first
level of screening, it uses technology that can screen large numbers of
passenger bags quickly but may be less effective in detecting
Many Immediate Challenges Remain to Improve Transportation Security:
Many immediate challenges remain for TSA to improve both the security
of other modes of transportation and to strengthen aviation security in
areas not covered by specific deadlines. TSA has not yet assumed full
responsibility for the security of other modes of transportation, such
as highways, railroads, mass transit, ports, and pipelines; however, it
has established a number of functions to collaborate and communicate
with the DOT agencies responsible for these other modes, as well as
with other government agencies. For example, TSA officials told us that
the agency has created a broad memorandum of understanding with the U.S.
Coast Guard that will serve as a template for such agreements between
TSA and other agencies, including the Federal Transit Administration
(FTA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In addition, other
DOT modal agencies have various initiatives under way to improve
security during this transition period. FTA has, for example, launched
a multipart initiative to assess the security of over 30 transit
agencies, provide free emergency preparedness and security training for
transit agency personnel and first responders, and make grants
available for organizing and conducting emergency response drills.
Similarly, the U.S. Coast Guard has acted as a focal point for
assessing and addressing security concerns for the nation‘s ports.
Other challenges also confront TSA as it attempts to strengthen
aviation security. Passenger screeners still fail to detect weapons and
other threat objects (e.g., knives, scissors, and sharp objects) at
unacceptable rates, and enhanced screening procedures are unevenly
applied among airports. In November 2001, staff from the DOT Inspector
General‘s office observed private contractors carry out screening at 58
security checkpoints and concluded that they were not consistently and
uniformly following FAA‘s screening requirements. For example, in some
cases screeners were not checking passengers‘ identification against
their boarding passes, were not adequately screening carry-on bags for
threat objects, and were not performing continuous random secondary
screening measures, such as manually searching carry-on items or using
wands to screen passengers. Recent TSA testing found that screeners at
32 of the nation‘s largest airports failed to detect fake weapons
(guns, dynamite, or bombs) in almost a quarter of the undercover tests
at screening checkpoints. Since TSA took over aviation security
responsibilities on February 17, 2002, discoveries of guns, knives, and
other potential weapons on passengers who had passed security
checkpoints have prompted evacuations at 124 airports and resulted in
631 flights being called back to terminals so that passengers could be
Furthermore, the enhanced security procedures have contributed to
longer waits and congestion at airport terminals. TSA‘s goal is to
process passengers through security in 10 minutes or less, but airlines
have reported significantly longer waits during peak times at a number
of the nation‘s major airports. These conditions can discourage air
travel and adversely affect the travel industry.
Finally, the challenge of identifying and removing airport workers who
cannot meet new requirements for background checks continues. Last
October FAA ordered background checks on an estimated 750,000 airport
and airline employees with access to secured areas of airports. By
April 28, 2002, federal law enforcement officials had arrested or
indicted more than 450 workers at 15 airports for being in the United
States illegally or using phony social security numbers. These workers,
who were employed by private companies that clean airplanes, operate
airport restaurants, and provide other airport services, had security
badges giving them access to planes, ramps, runways, and cargo areas.
Completing these background checks will enhance aviation security.
Some other immediate challenges, such as the security of cargo and
general aviation, were discussed in the act itself, and more recent
legislative proposals have raised these and other outstanding aviation
security issues. To address these issues, bills have been introduced to
arm pilots, enhance cargo security, require background checks for all
foreign applicants to U.S. flight schools, prohibit the opening of
cockpit doors during flights, train airline personnel to conduct
passenger identification checks, make it a criminal penalty to
intentionally circumvent airport security, and provide whistleblower
protection for air carrier and airport security workers. (See app. III
for a summary of pending legislation on aviation security.) All of
these are complex and controversial issues. In moving forward, TSA must
work with stakeholders to assess the risks and vulnerabilities of the
various options and carefully weigh both the policy implications and
the implementation strategies required for their success, keeping in
mind the long-term implications of short-term decisions.
To illustrate the challenges and complexities TSA faces in attempting to
strengthen aviation security, we examined some of the issues raised by
proposals to arm pilots; establish a ’trusted traveler“ program, which
would use biometric identifiers to expedite security checks; and
enhance cargo security.
Last month, at the request of this Committee‘s Chairman, we provided
information on, among other things, reasons for and against arming
pilots and questions to be addressed if pilots were to be armed.
* Proponents of arming pilots cited the potential deterrent value of
firearms, their usefulness as a last line of defense, and past
regulatory precedents, while opponents cited the moral dilemma pilots
would face if they were prohibited from leaving the cockpit, as they
would be by the legislation, when passengers or crew members were being
threatened in the cabin. Opponents also said that arming pilots would
introduce another 10,000 to 100,000 guns into our society, which they
believe would have negative effects.
* Questions to be addressed if pilots were to be armed included (1) who
would regulate and oversee pilots‘ carriage of weapons; (2) what
qualifications and training pilots would need to carry weapons; (3) what
types of weapons would be carried and how they would be maintained,
stored, and transported; (4) what aircraft modifications would be
required; and (5) how much it would cost to arm pilots.
TSA has not yet completed its evaluation of the benefits and
disadvantages of a trusted traveler program. Such a program, if
successfully implemented, could reduce airport waits and speed security
checks for passengers who voluntarily submit information about
themselves and undergo background checks. It could also minimize the
economic disruption caused by congestion at the terminal by allowing
airline and TSA staff to focus more attention on lesser known passengers
who could present greater security risks. However, such a program has
the potential to increase the system‘s vulnerability by using reduced
security measures for some passengers. If terrorists were to steal the
identities of trusted travelers, the consequences could be particularly
The trusted traveler concept presents many procedural questions that
would need to be answered before a decision could be reached on
implementing the program. Such questions include which passengers would
be eligible to enroll, what information would be collected, how
frequently their status would be updated, what entity would run the
program, and what biometric identifiers would be used to positively
identify the passengers.
Aviation Cargo Security:
Both the act and recent legislative proposals have raised the security
of aviation cargo as an issue. The act requires that all cargo
transported in all-cargo aircraft be screened as soon as practicable,
but it is silent on how best to accomplish this screening. TSA has not
announced how it plans to meet this requirement, in part because it has
focused most of its efforts on meeting the deadlines for screening
passenger bags. Two recent legislative proposals (S. 2668 and S. 2656)
call for enhancing aviation cargo security by tightening the security
of the ’known shippers“ system”the major system currently used to
ensure aviation cargo security. The DOT Inspector General and others
have identified gaps in this program, which allows shippers who meet
DOT‘s requirements to ship their cargo without inspection. The proposed
legislation calls for investigating known shippers more thoroughly to
ensure they are who they say they are, establishing a documentary
’chain of custody“ for all shipments, and inspecting a greater
percentage of cargo than is currently done. These legislative proposals
are intended to address the most difficult problem in ensuring cargo
security”screening the vast amount of cargo without major disruptions
in service”by increasing the level of scrutiny on shippers, middlemen,
TSA Faces Longer-Term Institutional Challenges:
TSA faces several longer-term challenges as it organizes itself to
protect the nation‘s transportation system. These challenges include
strategically managing its workforce, controlling costs, and sharing
Strategic Human Capital Management Is Essential for Maximizing TSA‘s
A human capital strategy is critical for TSA, which may have a
workforce as large as 70,000. To assist agencies in managing their
human capital more strategically, GAO has developed a model of
strategic human capital management that identifies cornerstones and
related critical success factors that agencies should apply and steps
they can take.[Footnote 6] Our model is designed to help agency leaders
effectively lead and manage their people and integrate human capital
considerations into daily decision making and the program results they
seek to achieve. In ongoing work for this Committee, we are reviewing
aspects of TSA's implementation of results-oriented practices, such as
human capital management. Today we would like to share some preliminary
observations on TSA's progress in this area.
TSA‘s success in protecting the nation‘s transportation system depends
in large part on its ability to recruit, train, and retain key people.
Our prior work on aviation security identified problems with the
training and retention of contract screeners. TSA has been charged with
hiring and training a federal screener workforce and has encountered
unexpected difficulty in doing so, especially in large metropolitan
areas. For example, at Baltimore-Washington International Airport”the
first of 429 airports to be staffed with federal passenger screeners”
TSA's hiring of screeners was delayed because high percentages of
applicants did not show up for or did not pass their prehiring
assessment. Only about a third of the qualified applicants who were
contacted to schedule an assessment reported for their assessment, and
of those who reported, only about a third passed. If TSA experiences
similar problems in trying to staff other airports, then the hiring
challenge facing the agency is daunting.
A critical success factor in human capital management is to tailor
human capital approaches to meet organizational needs by using the full
range of tools and flexibilities available to an agency under current
laws and regulations. The act allows TSA to use and modify the
personnel system established by FAA, which is exempt from many federal
personnel provisions. To meet its need for talented resources quickly,
TSA officials told us that they made use of flexibilities such as
temporary hiring authority, on-the-spot hiring authority, and the
authority to use detailees from other agencies and executives on loan
from the private sector. TSA is also basing its compensation system on
FAA's pay banding approach, which allows the agency to hire employees
anywhere within broad pay bands for their positions. For example, the
pay band for screeners ranges from $23,600 to $35,400 (from about $11
to $17 per hour).[Footnote 7] Pay banding is one approach that can
support a more direct link between pay and an individual‘s knowledge,
skills, and performance if an agency's performance management systems
can support this link.
Another critical success factor is linking individual performance to
organizational goals. The act requires TSA to establish a performance
management system and performance agreements, with organizational and
individual goals for employees, managers, and executives. TSA has made
progress in setting up the performance management system. The agency
has drafted but not approved an interim employee performance management
system for the current fiscal year. The system lays out the processes
and procedures for establishing performance agreements that include
organizational and individual goals and objectives, measuring and
monitoring performance, determining employees‘ development needs, and
appraising and rewarding employees. Until the interim system is
approved, TSA has implemented a temporary performance agreement for
newly hired screeners and supervisory screeners. The temporary
performance agreement contains a general description of duties and the
manner in which the duties should be performed; it does not include
specific individual and organizational goals. Finalizing a performance
management system linked to organizational goals is critical to
motivating and managing staff, ensuring the quality of screeners‘
performance, and, ultimately, restoring public confidence in air travel.
(Washington, D.C.: March 2002).
Cost Controls and Contractor Oversight Are Critical for Ensuring TSA‘s
Federal organizations have a stewardship obligation to acquire goods
and services at reasonable prices; expend federal tax dollars
appropriately; ensure financial accountability to the President,
Congress, and American people; and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.
Long-term attention to cost and accountability controls for acquisition
and related business processes will be critical both to ensuring TSA's
success and to maintaining its integrity and accountability. Such
attention includes establishing cost control mechanisms and monitoring
contractors' performance with respect to cost, schedule, and quality.
This is particularly important because of TSA's large acquisition and
TSA oversees many large-dollar contracts; however, according to the DOT
Inspector General, it could improve its controls over these contracts,
which total $3.1 billion in fiscal year 2002. For example, TSA
initially budgeted $2,500 per screener for background checks but was
able to reduce this estimate to $200 per screener after the Inspector
General expressed concern. This change is projected to save the agency
approximately $95 million in fiscal year 2002 alone. According to the
Inspector General, although TSA has made progress in addressing certain
cost-related issues, it has not established an infrastructure that
provides an effective span of control to monitor contractors' costs and
Cost controls are also important in establishing employee compensation
levels and controlling salaries. While pay banding can be used to
ensure that salaries are commensurate with position duties, it should
not be used to arbitrarily set salaries higher than comparable
positions in other agencies. For example, TSA is hiring law enforcement
officers from a number of other law enforcement agencies. TSA's
starting salary for most federal air marshals is $36,400, which is
supplemented by a 25-percent law enforcement pay differential that
raises it to $45,500. In contrast, the starting salaries for law
enforcement employees at the Defense Protective Service, the U.S.
Capitol Police, and the Federal Protective Service--where some of the
new federal air marshals previously worked--are capped at $37,000, in
part because they do not include this pay differential.
Further cost reductions due to efficiencies and economies of scale may
be possible if TSA is moved to the proposed Department of Homeland
Security. Costs reductions might be possible by consolidating
administrative, technical, or other types of staff. As a result, TSA
should exercise caution in staffing certain positions, such as creating
its own criminal investigative workforce, when such functions might be
merged with an already existing workforce. For example, under the
President's proposal, Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS), which have a combined criminal investigative workforce
of about 5,000, would join TSA in reporting to an Under Secretary for
Border and Transportation Security.
Information Sharing and Coordination Among Agencies Are Crucial for
Threat Identification and Response:
Timely, accurate information about terrorists and the threats they pose
is vital to TSA's mission. Such information is gathered and maintained
by numerous law enforcement and other agencies, including the Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI), INS, the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA), and the State Department. Timely information sharing among such
agencies has been hampered by organizational cultures that make
agencies reluctant to share sensitive information and by outdated
computer systems that lack interoperability. For example, INS, FBI, and
the State Department all need the capacity to identify aliens in the
United States who are in violation of their visa status, have broken
U.S. laws, or are under investigation for criminal activity, including
terrorism. In the immediate aftermath of September 11, it was reported
that the computerized database systems of INS and State were
incompatible, making data sharing difficult and cumbersome.
Increased coordination among agencies with responsibilities for
national security is called for in the act, as well as in proposals for
the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security. Specifically,
the act established a transportation security oversight board, which is
responsible for (1) facilitating the coordination of intelligence,
security, and law enforcement activities affecting transportation; (2)
facilitating the sharing of threat information affecting transportation
among federal agencies and with airlines and other transportation
providers; and (3) exploring the technical feasibility of developing a
common database of individuals who may pose a threat to transportation
or national security. The board includes representation from the DOT,
CIA, National Security Council, Attorney General, the Departments of
Defense and Treasury, and the Office of Homeland Security. Similarly,
proposals to create a new Department of Homeland Security include
provisions to share and coordinate intelligence information among many
federal agencies. Moving TSA and agencies with responsibility for
border protection, such as INS, into the proposed Department of
Homeland Security may provide the opportunity for increased information
sharing using state-of-the-art technology to manage threat information.
Mr. Chairman, it is worth repeating the two central issues confronting
TSA as it strives to improve aviation security: it must meet mandated
deadlines and demonstrate results swiftly while it creates a federal
agency whose plans, policies, and procedures generally ensure long-term
success. Achieving either goal would be challenge enough; to accomplish
both simultaneously requires truly extraordinary efforts. Carefully
considering how it strategically manages its large workforce, controls
costs, and coordinates with other agencies to share threat information
will help it meet its mission both now and in the future.
This concludes my prepared statement. I will be pleased to answer any
questions that you or Members of the Committee may have.
Contacts and Acknowledgments:
For more information, please contact Gerald L. Dillingham at (202) 512-
2834. Individuals making key contributions to this testimony included
Bonnie A. Beckett, Elizabeth Eisenstadt, Colin J. Fallon, David
Goldstein, Samantha Goodman, David Hooper, Heather Krause, Bob Kolasky,
Lisa Shames, Teresa Spisak, and Marti Tracy.
[End of section]
Appendix I: Selected GAO Reports and Testimonies on Aviation Security:
Aviation Security: Information Concerning the Arming of Commercial
Pilots. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GA0-02-822R].
Washington, D.C.: June 28, 2002.
Aviation Security: Deployment and Capabilities of Explosive Detection
Equipment. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-02-713C].
Washington, D.C.: June 20, 2002. (CLASSIFIED)
Aviation Security: Information on Vulnerabilities in the Nation‘s Air
Transportation System. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-01-1164T]. Washington, D.C.: September 26,
2001. (NOT FOR PUBLIC DISSEMINATION)
Aviation Security: Information on the Nation‘s Air Transportation System
Vulnerabilities. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-01-
1174T]. Washington, D.C.: September 26, 2001.
(NOT FOR PUBLIC DISSEMINATION)
Aviation Security: Vulnerabilities in, and Alternatives for, Preboard
Screening Security Operations. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-01-1171T]. Washington, D.C.:
September 25, 2001.
Aviation Security: Weaknesses in Airport Security and Options for
Assigning Screening Responsibilities. [hyperlink,
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-01-1165T]. Washington, D.C.:
September 21, 2001.
Aviation Security: Terrorist Acts Demonstrate Urgent Need to Improve
Security at the Nation's Airports. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-01-1162T]. Washington, D.C.:
September 20, 2001.
Aviation Security: Terrorist Acts Illustrate Severe Weaknesses in
Aviation Security. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-01-
1166T]. Washington, D.C.: September 20, 2001.
Responses of Federal Agencies and Airports We Surveyed about Access
Security Improvements. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-01-1069R]. Washington, D.C.: August 31, 2001.
Responses of Federal Agencies and Airports We Surveyed about Access
Security Improvements. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-01-1068R]. Washington, D.C.: August 31, 2001.
FAA Computer Security: Recommendations to Address Continuing Weaknesses.
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-01-171]. Washington,
D.C.: December 6, 2000.
Aviation Security: Additional Controls Needed to Address Weaknesses in
Carriage of Weapons Regulations. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-00-181]. Washington, D.C.: September 29, 2000.
FAA Computer Security: Actions Needed to Address Critical Weaknesses
That Jeopardize Aviation Operations. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/T-AIMD-00-330]. Washington, D.C.: September 27, 2000.
FAA Computer Security: Concerns Remain Due to Personnel and Other
Continuing Weaknesses. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/AIMD-00-252]. Washington, D.C.: August 16, 2000.
Aviation Security: Long-Standing Problems Impair Airport Screeners‘
Performance. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-00-
75]. Washington, D.C.: June 28, 2000.
Aviation Security: Screeners Continue to Have Serious Problems Detecting
Dangerous Objects. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-00-159]. Washington, D.C.: June 22, 2000. (NOT FOR
Computer Security: FAA Is Addressing Personnel Weaknesses, but Further
Action Is Required. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/AIMD-00-169]. Washington, D.C.: May 31, 2000.
Security: Breaches at Federal Agencies and Airports. [hyperlink,
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-OSI-00-10]. Washington, D.C.: May
Aviation Security: Screener Performance in Detecting Dangerous Objects
during FAA Testing Is Not Adequate. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/T-RCED-00-143]. Washington, D.C.: April 6, 2000. (NOT
FOR PUBLIC DISSEMINATION)
Combating Terrorism: How Five Foreign Countries Are Organized to Combat
Terrorism. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/NSIAD-00-
85]. Washington, D.C.: April 7, 2000.
Aviation Security: Vulnerabilities Still Exist in the Aviation Security
System. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/T-RCED/AIMD-
00-142]. Washington, D.C.: April 6, 2000.
U.S. Customs Service: Better Targeting of Airline Passengers for
Personal Searches Could Produce Better Results. [hyperlink,
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/GGD-00-38]. Washington, D.C.:
March 17, 2000.
Aviation Security: Screeners Not Adequately Detecting Threat Objects
during FAA Testing. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/T-
RCED-00-124]. Washington, D.C.: March 16, 2000. (NOT FOR PUBLIC
Aviation Security: Slow Progress in Addressing Long-Standing Screener
Performance Problems. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/T-RCED-00-125]. Washington, D.C.: March 16, 2000.
Aviation Security: FAA‘s Actions to Study Responsibilities and Funding
for Airport Security and to Certify Screening Companies. [hyperlink,
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-99-53]. Washington, D.C.:
February 24, 1999.
Aviation Security: FAA's Deployments of Equipment to Detect Traces of
Explosives. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-99-
32R]. Washington, D.C.: November 13, 1998.
Air Traffic Control: Weak Computer Security Practices Jeopardize Flight
Safety. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/AIMD-98-155].
Washington, D.C.: May 18, 1998.
Aviation Security: Progress Being Made, but Long-Term Attention Is
Needed. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/T-RCED-98-
190]. Washington, D.C.: May 14, 1998.
Air Traffic Control: Weak Computer Security Practices Jeopardize Flight
Safety. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/AIMD-98-60].
Washington, D.C.: April 29, 1998. (LIMITED OFFICIAL USE – DO NOT
Aviation Security: Implementation of Recommendations Is Under Way, but
Completion Will Take Several Years. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-98-102]. Washington, D.C.: April 24, 1998.
Combating Terrorism: Observations on Crosscutting Issues. [hyperlink,
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?T-NSIAD-98-164]. Washington, D.C.:
April 23, 1998.
Aviation Safety: Weaknesses in Inspection and Enforcement Limit FAA in
Identifying and Responding to Risks. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-98-6]. Washington, D.C.:
February 27, 1998.
Aviation Security: FAA's Procurement of Explosives Detection Devices.
Washington, D.C.: May 1, 1997.
Aviation Security: Commercially Available Advanced Explosives Detection
Devices. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-97-
ll9R]. Washington, D.C.: April 24, 1997.
Aviation Safety and Security: Challenges to Implementing the
Recommendations of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and
Security. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/T-RCED-97-
90]. Washington, D.C.: March 5, 1997.
Aviation Security: Technology's Role in Addressing Vulnerabilities.
Washington, D.C.: September 19, 1996.
Aviation Security: Oversight of Initiatives Will Be Needed. [hyperlink,
D.C.: September 17, 1996. (CLASSIFIED)
Aviation Security: Urgent Issues Need to Be Addressed. [hyperlink,
D.C.: September 11, 1996.
Aviation Security: Immediate Action Needed to Improve Security.
Washington, D.C.: August 1, 1996.
Aviation Security: FAA Can Help Ensure That Airports‘ Access Control
Systems Are Cost Effective. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-95-25]. Washington, D.C.: March 1, 1995.
Aviation Security: Development of New Security Technology Has Not Met
Expectations. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-94-
142]. Washington, D.C.: May 19, 1994.
Aviation Security: Additional Actions Needed to Meet Domestic and
International Challenges. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO/RCED-94-38]. Washington, D.C.: January 27, 1994.
[End of section]
Appendix II: Deadlines in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act:
Deadline: Nov. 19, 2001;
Provision[A]: Require new background checks for those who have access
to secure areas of the airport; Institute a 45-day waiting period for
aliens seeking flight training for planes of 12,500 pounds or more.
Deadline: Dec. 19, 2001;
Provision[A]: Establish qualifications for federal screeners; Report to
The Congress on improving general aviation security.
Deadline: Jan. 18, 2002;
Provision[A]: Screen all checked baggage in U.S. airports using
explosive detection systems, passenger-bag matching, manual searches,
canine units, or other approved means; FAA is to develop guidance for
air carriers to use in developing programs to train flight and
cabin crews to resist threats (within 60 days after FAA issues the
guidance, each airline is to develop a training program and submit it
to FAA; within 30 days of receiving a program, FAA is to approve it or
require revisions; within 180 days of receiving FAA‘s approval, the
airline is to complete training of all flight and cabin crews); Develop
a plan to train federal screeners; Foreign and domestic carriers are to
provide electronic passenger and crew manifests to Customs for flights
from foreign countries to the United States; Begin collecting the
passenger security fee.
Deadline: Feb. 17, 2002;
Provision[A]: The Under Secretary is to assume civil aviation security
functions from FAA; Implement an aviation security program for charter
carriers; Begin awarding grants for security-related research and
development; The National Institute of Justice is to report to the
Secretary on less-than-lethal weapons for flight crew members.
Deadline: May 18, 2002 Recommend commercially available security
Provision[A]: measures to airports for secure areas; Report to The
Congress on the deployment of baggage screening equipment; Report to
The Congress on progress in evaluating and taking the following
* Require 911 capability for onboard passenger telephones;
* Establish uniform IDs for law enforcement personnel carrying weapons
on planes or in secure areas;
* Establish requirements for trusted traveler programs;
* Develop alternative security procedures to avoid damage to medical
* Provide for the use of secure communications technologies to inform
airport security forces about passengers who are identified on security
* Require pilot licenses to include a photograph and biometric
* Use voice stress analysis, biometric, or other technologies to
prevent high-risk passengers from boarding;
* Provide for the use of instant communications technology between
planes and ground.
Deadline: Nov. 19, 2002;
Provision[A]: Deploy federal screeners, security managers, and law
enforcement officers to screen passengers and property; Report to The
Congress on screening for small aircraft with 60 or fewer seats;
Establish pilot program to contract with private screening companies
(program to last until Nov. 19, 2004).
Deadline: Dec. 31, 2002;
Provision[A]: Screen all checked baggage by explosive detection
Deadline: May 18, 2003;
Provision[A]: Review reductions in secure-area incursions.
Deadline: No deadline;
Provision[A]: Carriers are to transfer screening property to TSA; FAA
is to issue an order prohibiting access to the flight deck, requiring
strengthened cabin doors, requiring that cabin doors remain locked, and
prohibiting possession of a key for all but the flight deck crew;
Improve perimeter screening of all individuals, goods, property, and
vehicles Screen all cargo on passenger flights and cargo-only flights;
Establish procedures for notifying FAA, state and local law enforcement
officers, and airport security of known threats; Establish procedures
for airlines to identify passengers who pose a potential security
threat; FAA is to develop and implement methods for using cabin video
monitors, continuously operating transponders, and notifying flight
deck crew of a highjacking; Require flight training schools to conduct
security awareness programs for employees; Work with airport operators
to strengthen access control points and consider deploying technology
to improve security access; Provide operational testing for screeners;
Assess dual-use items that seem harmless but could be dangerous and
inform screening personnel; Establish a system for measuring staff
performance; Establish management accountability for meeting
performance goals; Periodically review threats to civil aviation,
including chemical and biological weapons.
[A]: Provisions apply to TSA except where otherwise noted.
[End of section]
Appendix III: Pending Legislation on Aviation Security:
Bill number and date: S. 1794; Dec. 10, 2001;
Name/Subject: Airport Checkpoint Enhancement Act;
* Subjects individuals who intentionally circumvent, in an unauthorized
manner, a security system or procedure within a U.S. commercial service
airport, to criminal penalties, including imprisonment for up to 10
Bill number and date: S. 1980; Mar. 1, 2002;
Name/Subject: Training of Airline Personnel on Passenger Identification
* Directs the FAA Administrator and appropriate personnel, including
TSA, to develop guidance within 60 days for training all commercial
aviation personnel who are responsible for checking passenger
* Directs each air carrier to develop and submit a training program
that meets these guidelines to the Administrator within 60 days. Also
requires air carriers, within 180 days of receiving the Administrator's
approval, to complete the training of all airline personnel responsible
for checking passenger identification.
* Directs the Administrator to establish and carry out a program to
require the installation and use at airports within 180 days of
identification verification technologies, such as identification
scanners or retinal or facial scanners, to assist in the screening of
Bill number and date: S. 2497; May 9, 2002;
Name/Subject: Would prohibit opening of cockpit doors during flight;
* Requires that the door of any aircraft that is required to have a door
between the passenger and pilot compartments remain closed and locked
at all times during flight. Establishes a mantrap door exception that
allows authorized persons to enter or leave the cockpit if the aircraft
is equipped with double doors and remote cameras between the doors.
Bill number and date: S. 2554; May 23, 2002;
Name/Subject: Arming Pilots Against Terrorism and Cabin Defense Act;
* Establishes a program within 90 days to (1) deputize volunteer
qualified pilots of commercial cargo or passenger aircraft as federal
flight desk officers; and (2) provide training, supervision, and
equipment for such officers.
* Requires TSA to deputize at least 500 qualified pilots within 120
days. Requires full implementation within 2 years.
* Authorizes flight deck officers to carry firearms and to use force,
including lethal force, when they judge an aircraft‘s security at risk.
Shields an air carrier from liability for the actions of the crew in
defending an aircraft.
* Directs the formation of the Aviation Crew Self-Defense Division
Bill number and date: S. 2642; June 18, 2002;
Name/Subject: Would require background checks for alien flight school
* Eliminates the current background check requirement for aliens taking
training at flight schools, which applies only to training on planes
that weigh 12,500 pounds or more.
* Requires background checks for all alien flight school applicants
regardless of the size of the plane that would be used in their
* Requires the Transportation and Justice departments to report to The
Congress within 1 year on the effectiveness of the program.
Bill number and date: S. 2656; June 20, 2002;
Name/Subject: Would establish cargo security measures;
* Requires the head of TSA to submit to the Congress by Sept. 30, 2002,
a security plan for the transportation of cargo into and out of the
United States and to oversee the implementation of security measures
with respect to cargo at airports and other transportation facilities.
The final plan must be implemented by Sept. 30, 2003.
* By that date, the head of TSA must implement random screening of at
least 5 percent of cargo at airports and other transportation
facilities, an authentication policy for ’known shippers,“ regular
audits of shippers to ensure full compliance with security procedures
and background check requirements for cargo handlers, and develop a
security training program for entities that handle cargo.
Bill number and date: S. 2668; June 21, 2002;
Name/Subject: Air Cargo Security Act;
Key features: • Requires the head of TSA to establish a security system
cargo in all passenger and cargo aircraft. Further requires the head
of TSA to ensure that this security system establishes a verifiable
record of the chain of custody for cargo and that each person who
handles the cargo is known and properly certified.
• Requires the establishment of a comprehensive system of
certification for shippers and providers of cargo transportation
services that includes the assignment of a unique encrypted
identifier, as well as a system for the regular inspection of shipping
facilities for cargo.
Bill number and date: S. 2686; June 26, 2002;
Name/Subject: Airport Employee Whistleblower Protection Act;
* Establishes whistleblower protection for employees of air carriers or
contractors or subcontractors of air carriers and airport security
personnel, both federal and local.
Bill number and date: S. 2735 IS; July 16, 2002;
Name/Subject: Aviation Security Enhancement Act (Same exact legislation
as the House bill of the same name);
* Requires the Under Secretary to notify individual airports of the
number and type of explosive detection systems (EDS) to be deployed by
Oct. 1, 2002.
* Requires airports to notify TSA by Nov. 1, 2002, if they will be
unable to meet those requirements by Dec. 31, 2002. If so, requires TSA
and the airports to work together to develop an alternative plan.
* If EDSs are not in place at a U.S. airport on Dec. 31, 2002, allows
alternative methods, such as hand searches and bag matching, until the
EDSs are in place.
* Requires all EDSs to be placed in nonpublic areas to the maximum
* Requires that TSA purchase any EDSs on behalf of the airports.
* Requires that TSA conduct demonstration projects of alternatives to
EDSs. TSA shall report the results of these projects to The Congress by
Dec. 31, 2003.
Bill number and date: H.R. 4635; May 1, 2002;
Name/Subject: Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act;
* Directs TSA to establish a program to (1) deputize volunteer pilots
of air carriers as federal law enforcement officers to defend the flight
decks of aircraft against acts of criminal violence or air piracy and
(2) provide training, supervision, and equipment for such officers.
* Requires the Under Secretary to begin training and deputizing
qualified pilots to be federal flight deck officers under the program.
* Directs TSA to authorize flight deck officers to carry firearms and to
use force, including lethal force, according to standards and
circumstances the Under Secretary prescribes. Precludes an air carrier
from prohibiting or threatening any retaliatory action against a pilot
for becoming a federal flight deck officer.
* Amends the Aviation and Transportation Security Act to authorize the
Under Secretary to take certain enhanced security measures, including
to require that air carriers provide flight attendants with a discreet,
hands-free, wireless method of communicating with the pilot of an
* Directs the Under Secretary to study and report to the Congress on
the benefits and risks of providing flight attendants with nonlethal
weapons to aid in combating air piracy and criminal violence on
Bill number and date: H.R. 5005; June 24, 2002;
Name/Subject: Homeland Security Act of 2002;
* Requires TSA to consult with FAA before taking any action that might
affect aviation safety, air carrier operations, aircraft airworthiness,
or the use of airspace.
* Maintains TSA as a distinct entity within the Department of Homeland
Security. Provides that TSA will cease to exist as a distinct entity
after 2 years.
* Requires TSA to notify all major airports by Oct. 1, 2002, of the
number and type of EDSs that they will be required to deploy in order
to screen all checked baggage by Dec. 31, 2002. Allows the airports to
use other methods of screening, such as bag matching, canine sniffers,
or other technology, if they cannot make the modifications necessary to
meet the Dec. 31, 2002, deadline.
* Requires that the total number of passengers and baggage screeners in
place after Nov. 19, 2002, shall not be less than were deployed on
Sept. 11, 2001, at each individual airport.
[End of section]
 P.L. 107-71, November 19, 2001.
 See U.S. General Accounting Office, [hyperlink,
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-OSI-0010], Security: Breaches at
Federal Agencies and Airports (Washington, D.C.: May 25, 2002).
 Because the number of federal air marshals is classified
information, their numbers are not included in the total for employees
hired by TSA.
 Computer–assisted passenger screening is an automated procedure
that reviews data in airline passenger records to identify passengers
who might present a risk.
 Information Concerning the Arming of Commercial Pilots [hyperlink,
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-02-822R], June 28, 2002.
 U.S. General Accounting Office, A Model of Strategic Human Capital
Management, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-02-
 Before TSA assumed responsibility for oversight of screening,
contract screeners‘ pay was much lower, ranging, for example, from $7
to $10 per hour.
[End of section]