This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-04-315R 
entitled 'Posthearing Questions Related to Aviation and Port Security' 
which was released on December 12, 2003.

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December 12, 2003:

The Honorable Ernest F. Hollings:

Ranking Member:

Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation:

United States Senate:

Subject: Posthearing Questions Related to Aviation and Port Security:

Dear Senator Hollings:

This letter responds to your November 17, 2003, request that we provide 
answers to questions relating to our September 9, 2003, testimony on 
transportation security.[Footnote 1] The questions posed by Senator 
Frank Lautenberg to GAO, along with our responses, follow.

I am concerned that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the 
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are dealing with our 
nation's pressing life and death security needs by playing shell games 
with critical resources. Last week, Secretary Ridge announced that 
5,000 new air marshals would be trained, but that these individuals 
would come from the existing ranks of custom and immigration agents. 
During high-threat periods, this cross-training plan might enhance air 
security but will come at the expense of border and ground security. 
Under the Administration's plan to utilize current immigration and 
customs employees to double as air marshals, how will DHS ensure that, 
during high-threat periods, there are adequate personnel both in air 
marshal roles and at the border as customs/immigration agents?

DHS's plan does not explicitly address the adequacy of the current 
immigration, customs, and air marshal workforces to address concurrent 
high threats to border, ground, and aviation security. Rather, the plan 
provides for temporarily enhancing the air marshal workforce to respond 
to high threats to aviation. Specifically, according to Secretary 
Ridge, cross-training immigration and customs officers in air 
marshal tactics would give DHS greater flexibility to adjust its law 
enforcement resources according to varying threats and provide a surge 
capacity during periods of high threats to aviation. The immigration 
and customs officers would not be used as air marshals during every 
high-threat period; they would be used as such only when there was a 
high risk to aviation.

DHS's cross-training plan could have some benefits; but, as we recently 
reported, it also poses training and administrative 
challenges.[Footnote 2] According to the Secretary, the cross-training 
for immigration and customs agents and federal air marshals will be 
centralized. Centralization could eventually produce some cost 
efficiencies. However, cross-training will expand the roles and 
responsibilities of all three law-enforcement workforces; and a needs 
assessment will have to be conducted to identify each workforce's 
additional training requirements. Cross-training requirements and 
curriculums also will have to be established and approved. In addition, 
each affected workforce's organization will have to coordinate the new 
training requirements with its other mission requirements, as it 
schedules its officers for cross-training. Finally, planned changes in 
the roles and responsibilities of the federal law enforcement officers 
could have implications for their performance evaluations and 
compensation. Currently, the three law enforcement workforces are under 
different pay systems and are compensated at different rates. DHS has 
efforts under way to deal with these issues.

Are any new air marshals currently being trained?

New air marshals are currently being hired and provided basic training 
at the rate of about one class per month, a rate sufficient to offset 
attrition and maintain the current number of air marshals. According to 
the Federal Air Marshals Service, there is no surge in hiring or 
training forecasted because the goal for hiring air marshals set by the 
Secretary of Transportation after September 11, 2001, was met in July 
2002, as planned.

In addition to the required basic training, the Service instituted a 4-
week advanced training course for air marshals in October 2002. All air 
marshals hired from October 2001 through July 2002 were required to 
complete the course by January 2004. Air marshals hired after August 
2002 attend this advanced training course after completing their basic 
training. In August 2003, the Service reported that proposed cutbacks 
in its training funds would require it to extend the January 2004 date 
to mid-2004. According to DHS, the Service's transfer to Immigration 
and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will not adversely affect either the 
funding for air marshals' training or the schedule for newly hired air 
marshals to complete the 4-week training course, since a total of 
$626.4 million is being transferred from TSA to ICE. However, it is not 
clear how much of the funding will be allocated for training. Given the 
importance of training to ensure that air marshals are prepared to 
carry out their mission, we believe that maintaining adequate funding 
for training should remain a priority.

DHS has recently tried to divert $30 million from the Operation Safe 
Commerce pilot program intended to identify and implement the systemic 
port security initiation in order to cover a budget shortfall in 
airport security. Do you believe federal port security programs are 
adequately funded?

Effective maritime security requires the ability to put preventive 
systems, controls, and infrastructure in place. According to 
transportation security experts and state and local government and 
industry representatives we contacted, funding is the most pressing 
challenge to accomplishing this task. While some security improvements 
are inexpensive, most require substantial funding. Additionally, given 
the large number of assets to protect, the sum of even relatively less 
expensive investments can be cost prohibitive. According to Coast Guard 
estimates, the cost of implementing the new International Maritime 
Organization security code and the security provisions in the Maritime 
Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 will be approximately $1.5 
billion for the first year and $7.4 billion over the succeeding decade. 
These costs are substantial sums, but it is not clear at this point how 
the costs will be paid, as the following examples illustrate.

Funding difficulties can be seen in the implementation of TSA's 
Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC). Although no national 
estimates of the cost are currently available, they are likely to be 
substantial. According to a TSA official, nationwide the agency expects 
to issue five to six million identification cards a year from mid-2004 
to the end of 2007. In our work at Los Angeles, port authority 
officials expressed concern about how much it may cost to implement 
this card and all the steps and equipment associated with it, such as 
the installation of card readers throughout the port, the issuance of 
cards to port personnel, and adding staff to operate and maintain the 
system. A study for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach estimates 
that it will cost at least $45 million to perform the necessary start-
up tasks. Because of these significant costs, maritime stakeholders are 
concerned about who will ultimately pay for the TWIC. One port 
authority official indicated that the cost may be passed on to workers 
as a cost of their employment.

Another example of funding difficulties can be seen at the federal 
level, where an MTSA requirement for a vessel identification system is 
being phased in over time, partly because of funding limitations. This 
identification system, called the Automated Identification System 
(AIS), uses a device aboard a vessel to transmit a unique identifying 
signal to a receiver located at the port and to other ships in the 
area. This information gives port officials and other vessels nearly 
instantaneous information about a vessel's identity, position, speed, 
and course. Such a system would provide an "early warning" of an 
unidentified vessel or a vessel that was in a location where it 
should not be. MTSA requires that vessels in certain categories
[Footnote 3] 
install tracking equipment between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 
2004, with the specific date dependent on the type of vessel and when 
it was built. Effectively implementing the system requires considerable 
land-based equipment and other infrastructure that is not currently 
available in many ports. As a result, for the foreseeable future, the 
system will be available in less than half of the 25 busiest U.S. 
ports.[Footnote 4]

Installing AIS at the remaining ports depends in part on when funding 
will be available. The only ports with the necessary infrastructure to 
use AIS are those that have waterways controlled by Vessel Traffic 
Service (VTS) systems.[Footnote 5] Expanding coverage will require 
substantial additional investment, both public and private. The Coast 
Guard's budget request for fiscal year 2004 includes $40 million for 
shore-based AIS equipment and related infrastructure--an amount that 
covers only current VTS areas. According to a Coast Guard official, 
wider-reaching national implementation of AIS would involve 
installation and training costs ranging from $62 million to $120 
million. Also, the cost of installing AIS equipment aboard individual 
ships averages about $10,000 per vessel, which is to be borne by the 
vessel owner or operator. Some owners and operators, particularly of 
domestic vessels, have complained about the cost of equipping their 

As we suggested in our testimony,[Footnote 6] where the money will come 
from to meet these funding needs is not clear. One theme we have heard 
from maritime stakeholders is that the current economic environment 
makes this a difficult time for the private industry or state and local 
governments to make security investments. According to industry 
representatives and experts we contacted, most of the transportation 
industry operates on a very thin profit margin, making it difficult to 
pay for additional security measures. In addition, nearly every state 
and local government is facing a large budget deficit for fiscal year 
2004. For example, the National Governors Association estimates that 
states are facing a total budget shortfall of $80 billion this upcoming 
year. Given the tight budget environment, state and local governments 
and transportation operators must make difficult trade-offs between 
transportation security investments and other needs, such as service 
expansion and equipment upgrades. According to the National Association 
of Counties, many local governments are planning to defer some 
maintenance of their transportation infrastructure to pay for some 
security enhancements. At the same time however, the 
federal government faces its own challenges in finding considerable 
additional funding. Due to the costs of security enhancements and the 
transportation industries' and state and local governments' tight 
budget environments, the federal government is likely to be viewed as a 
source of funding for at least some of these enhancements. While 
federal moneys have been made available, requests for federal funding 
for transportation security enhancements will likely continue to exceed 
available resources, given the constraints on the federal budget as 
well as competing claims for federal assistance.

In responding to these questions, we relied primarily on our past work. 
We reviewed and analyzed data provided by the Federal Air Marshal 
Service and interviewed DHS officials. In addition, we visited the 
ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to obtain the views of port 

Should you or your office have any questions on aviation matters 
discussed in this report, please contact Gerald Dillingham at (202) 
512-2834. For questions on maritime issues, please contact Margaret 
Wrightson at (415) 904-2200. Key contributors to this report include 
Steve Calvo, John W. Shumann, and Teresa Spisak.

Sincerely yours,

Gerald L. Dillingham:

Director, Civil Aviation Issues:

Margaret Wrightson:

Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues:

Signed by Gerald L. Dillingham and Margaret Wrightson: 



[1] U.S. General Accounting Office, Aviation Security: Progress Since 
September 11, 2001, and the Challenges Ahead, GAO-03-1150T (Washington, 
D.C.: Sept. 9, 2003) and U.S. General Accounting Office, Maritime 
Security: Progress Made in Implementing Maritime Transportation 
Security Act, but Concerns Remain, GAO-03-1155T (Washington, D.C.: 
Sept. 9, 2003).

[2] U.S. General Accounting Office, Aviation Security: Federal Air 
Marshal Service Is Addressing Challenges of Its Expanded Mission and 
Workforce, but Additional Actions Needed, GAO-04-242 (Washington, D.C.: 
Nov. 19, 2003).

[3] All vessels of certain specifications on international voyages; 
self-propelled commercial vessels 65 feet or more in length; towing 
vessels 26 feet or more in length and more than 600 horsepower; vessels 
of 100 gross tons or more carrying one or more passengers for hire; and 
passenger vessels certificated to carry 50 or more passengers for hire.

[4] In addition to Los Angeles/Long Beach, the other ports currently 
scheduled to have this system are New York/New Jersey; the mouth of the 
Mississippi River; New Orleans; Houston/Galveston; Port Arthur, Texas; 
San Francisco; Seattle/Tacoma; Alaska's Prince William Sound; and Sault 
Ste. Marie, Michigan.

[5] Similar to air traffic control systems, VTS uses radar, closed 
circuit television, radiophones, and other technology to allow 
monitoring and management of vessel traffic from a central shore-based 

[6] GAO-03-1155T.