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Before the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure 
Protection, Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT:
Wednesday, March 17, 2010: 

Aviation Security: 

TSA Is Increasing Procurement and Deployment of the Advanced Imaging 
Technology, but Challenges to This Effort and Other Areas of Aviation 
Security Remain: 

Statement of Steve Lord, Director:
Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-484T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, Committee on 
Homeland Security, House of Representatives. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The attempted bombing of Northwest flight 253 highlighted the 
importance of detecting improvised explosive devices on passengers. 
This testimony focuses on (1) the Transportation Security 
Administration’s (TSA) efforts to procure and deploy advanced imaging 
technology (AIT), and related challenges; and (2) TSA’s efforts to 
strengthen screening procedures and technology in other areas of 
aviation security, and related challenges. This testimony is based on 
related products GAO issued from March 2009 through January 2010, 
selected updates conducted from December 2009 through March 2010 on 
the AIT procurement, and ongoing work on air cargo security. For the 
ongoing work and updates, GAO obtained information from the Department 
of Homeland Security (DHS) and TSA and interviewed senior TSA 
officials regarding air cargo security and the procurement, 
deployment, operational testing, and assessment of costs and benefits 
of the AIT. 

What GAO Found: 

In response to the December 25, 2009, attempted attack on Northwest 
flight 253, TSA revised the AIT procurement and deployment strategy, 
increasing the planned deployment of AITs from 878 to 1,800 units and 
using AITs as a primary—instead of a secondary—screening measure where 
feasible; however, challenges remain. In October 2009, GAO reported on 
the challenges TSA faced deploying new technologies such as the 
explosives trace portal (ETP) without fully testing them in an 
operational environment, and recommended such testing prior to future 
deployments. TSA officials concurred and stated that, unlike the ETP, 
operational testing for the AIT was successfully completed late in 
2009 before its deployment was fully initiated. While officials said 
AITs performed as well as physical pat downs in operational tests, it 
remains unclear whether the AIT would have detected the weapon used in 
the December 2009 incident based on the preliminary information GAO 
has received. GAO is verifying that TSA successfully completed 
operational testing of the AIT. In October 2009, GAO also recommended 
that TSA complete cost-benefit analyses for new passenger screening 
technologies. While TSA conducted a life-cycle cost estimate and an 
alternatives analysis for the AIT, it reported that it has not 
conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the original deployment strategy 
or the revised AIT deployment strategy, which proposes a more than 
twofold increase in the number of machines to be procured. GAO 
estimates increases in staffing costs alone due to doubling the number 
of AITs that TSA plans to deploy could add up to $2.4 billion over its 
expected service life. While GAO recognizes that TSA is attempting to 
address a vulnerability exposed by the December 2009 attempted attack, 
a cost-benefit analysis is important as it would help inform TSA’s 
judgment about the optimal deployment strategy for the AITs, and how 
best to address this vulnerability considering all elements of the 
screening system.
TSA has also taken actions towards strengthening other areas of 
aviation security but continues to face challenges. For example, TSA 
has taken steps to meet the statutory mandate to screen 100 percent of 
air cargo transported on passenger aircraft by August 2010, including 
developing a program to share screening responsibilities across the 
air cargo supply chain. However, as GAO reported in March 2009, a 
number of challenges to this effort exist, including attracting 
participants to the TSA screening program, completing technology 
assessments, and overseeing additional entities that it expects to 
participate in the program. GAO is exploring these issues as part of 
an ongoing review of TSA’s air cargo security program which GAO plans 
to issue later this year. Further, while TSA has taken a variety of 
actions to strengthen the security of commercial airports, GAO 
reported in September 2009 that TSA continues to face challenges in 
several areas, such as assessing risk and evaluating worker screening 
methods. In September 2009, GAO also recommended that TSA develop a 
national strategy to guide stakeholder efforts to strengthen airport 
perimeter and access control security, to which DHS concurred. 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO is not making new recommendations. In past reports, GAO has 
recommended, among other things, that TSA operationally test screening 
technologies prior to deployment and assess costs and benefits of 
screening technology investments. DHS concurred and is working to 
address the recommendations. DHS provided comments to this statement, 
which were incorporated. 

View [hyperlink,] or key 
components. For more information, contact Steve Lord at (202) 512-4379 

[End of section] 

Madame Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Transportation Security 
Administration's (TSA) progress in securing passenger checkpoints and 
other areas of commercial aviation. In response to the December 25, 
2009, attempted bombing of Northwest flight 253, the Secretary of 
Homeland Security announced five corrective actions to improve 
aviation security, including accelerating deployment of the advanced 
imaging technology (AIT)--formerly called the Whole Body Imager--to 
identify materials such as those used in the attempted Christmas Day 
bombing. The AITs produce an image of a passenger's body that TSA 
personnel use to look for anomalies, such as explosives. TSA is 
deploying AITs to airport passenger checkpoints to enhance its ability 
to detect explosive devices and other prohibited items on passengers. 
Passengers undergo either primary or secondary screening at these 
checkpoints. Primary screening is conducted on all airline passengers 
before they enter the sterile area of an airport and involves 
passengers walking through a metal detector and their carry-on items 
being subjected to X-ray screening.[Footnote 1] Secondary screening is 
conducted on selected passengers and involves additional screening of 
both passengers and their carry-on items. While screening passengers 
at the checkpoint is a vital layer of security, it is also important 
to ensure the security of other areas of commercial aviation, such as 
air cargo transported on passenger aircraft, and airport worker 
screening and checked baggage screening. 

TSA's passenger checkpoint screening system comprises three elements: 
(1) personnel responsible for, among other things, screening 
passengers and baggage; (2) the policies and procedures that govern 
the different aviation security programs; and (3) the technology used 
to screen passengers and baggage. All three elements--people, process, 
and technology--collectively help determine the effectiveness and 
efficiency of passenger checkpoint screening, and our past work in 
this area has addressed all three elements of the system.[Footnote 2] 
Similarly, securing the flying public involves tradeoffs between 
security, privacy, and the efficient flow of commerce. Striking the 
right balance between these three goals is an ongoing challenge facing 

My testimony today focuses on (1) TSA's plans to procure, deploy, and 
test AITs to enhance the security of the passenger checkpoint, and any 
challenges TSA faces in this effort; and (2) TSA's efforts to 
strengthen screening procedures and technology in other areas of 
aviation security, and any related challenges the agency faces in 
these areas. 

This statement is based on related GAO reports and testimonies we 
issued from March 2009 through January 2010, as well as preliminary 
observations based on ongoing work--from October 2008 through February 
2010--to be completed later this year assessing the progress that DHS 
and its component agencies have made in addressing challenges related 
to air cargo security.[Footnote 3] To conduct all of this work, we 
reviewed relevant documents related to the programs reviewed, and 
interviewed cognizant Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and TSA 
officials. All of this work was conducted in accordance with generally 
accepted government auditing standards, and our previously published 
reports contain additional details on the scope and methodology for 
those reviews. In addition, this statement contains selected updates 
conducted from December 2009 through March 2010 on TSA's effort to 
procure and deploy the AIT. For the updates, we obtained information 
from DHS and TSA on the AIT and interviewed senior TSA officials 
regarding the planned procurement, deployment, operational testing and 
evaluation, and assessment of benefits and costs of the AITs. We 
conducted these updates in accordance with generally accepted 
government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan 
and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to 
provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on 
our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a 
reasonable basis for our findings based on our audit objectives. 


Airline Passenger Screening Using Checkpoint Technology: 

Passenger screening is a process by which screeners inspect 
individuals and their property to deter and prevent an act of violence 
or air piracy, such as the carrying of any unauthorized explosive, 
incendiary, weapon, or other prohibited item on board an aircraft or 
into a sterile area. Screeners inspect individuals for prohibited 
items at designated screening locations. TSA developed standard 
operating procedures for screening passengers at airport checkpoints. 
Primary screening is conducted on all airline passengers before they 
enter the sterile area of an airport and involves passengers walking 
through a metal detector, and carry-on items being subjected to X-ray 
screening. Passengers who alarm the walk-through metal detector or are 
designated as selectees--that is, passengers selected for additional 
screening--must then undergo secondary screening, as well as 
passengers whose carry-on items have been identified by the X-ray 
machine as potentially containing prohibited items. Secondary 
screening involves additional means for screening passengers, such as 
by hand wand; physical pat down; or other screening methods such as 
the AIT. 

Role of DHS Science & Technology Directorate: 

Within DHS, both the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and TSA 
have responsibilities for researching, developing, and testing and 
evaluating new technologies, including airport checkpoint screening 
technologies. Specifically, S&T is responsible for the basic and 
applied research and advanced development of new technologies, while 
TSA, through its Passenger Screening Program (PSP), identifies the 
need for new checkpoint screening technologies and provides input to 
S&T during the research and development of new technologies, which TSA 
then procures and deploys. Because S&T and TSA share responsibilities 
related to the research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E), 
procurement, and deployment of checkpoint screening technologies, the 
two organizations must coordinate with each other and external 
stakeholders, such as airport operators and technology vendors. 

Air Cargo Security: 

Air cargo can be shipped in various forms, including unit load devices 
(ULD) that allow many packages to be consolidated into one container 
or pallet; wooden crates; or individually wrapped/boxed pieces, known 
as loose or break-bulk cargo. Participants in the air cargo shipping 
process include shippers, such as manufacturers; freight forwarders, 
who consolidate cargo from shippers and take it to air carriers for 
transport; air cargo handling agents, who process and load cargo onto 
aircraft on behalf of air carriers; and air carriers that load and 
transport cargo.[Footnote 4] TSA's responsibilities include, among 
other things, establishing security requirements governing domestic 
and foreign passenger air carriers that transport cargo and domestic 
freight forwarders. 

Airport Perimeter Security and Access Control: 

Airport perimeter and access control security is intended to prevent 
unauthorized access into secured airport areas, either from outside 
the airport complex or from within. Airport operators generally have 
direct day-to-day responsibility for maintaining and improving 
perimeter and access control security, as well as implementing 
measures to reduce worker risk. However, TSA has primary 
responsibility for establishing and implementing measures to improve 
security operations at U.S. commercial airports--that is, TSA-
regulated airports--including overseeing airport operator efforts to 
maintain perimeter and access control security.[Footnote 5] Airport 
workers may access sterile areas through TSA security checkpoints or 
through other access points that are secured by the airport operator. 
The airport operator is also responsible, in accordance with its 
security program, for securing access to secured airport areas where 
passengers are not permitted. Airport methods used to control access 
vary, but all access controls must meet minimum performance standards 
in accordance with TSA requirements. 

Increased Deployment of AIT Highlights the Importance of Operational 
Testing and Cost-Benefit Analysis Prior to Deployment: 

TSA Plans to Procure and Deploy 1,800 AITs by 2014 and Use Them as a 
Primary Screening Measure: 

In response to the December 2009 attempted terrorist attack, TSA has 
revised its procurement and deployment strategy for the AIT, 
increasing the number of AITs it plans to procure and deploy. In 
contrast with its prior strategy, the agency now plans to acquire and 
deploy 1,800 AITs (instead of the 878 units it had previously planned 
to acquire) and to use them as a primary screening measure where 
feasible rather than solely as a secondary screening measure. 
According to a senior TSA official, the agency is taking these actions 
in response to the Christmas Day 2009 terrorist incident. These 
officials stated that they anticipate the AIT will provide enhanced 
security benefits compared to walk-through metal detectors, such as 
enhanced detection capabilities for identifying nonmetallic threat 
objects and liquids. TSA officials also stated that the AIT offers 
greater efficiencies because it allows TSA to more rigorously screen a 
greater number of passengers in a shorter amount of time while 
providing a detection capability equivalent to a pat down. For 
example, the AIT requires about 20 seconds to produce and interpret a 
passenger's image as compared with 2 minutes required for a physical 
pat down. A senior official also stated that TSA intends to continue 
to offer an alternative but comparable screening method, such as a 
physical pat down, for passengers who prefer not to be screened using 
the AIT. 

The AIT produces an image of a passenger's body that a screener 
interprets. The image identifies objects, or anomalies, on the outside 
of the physical body but does not reveal items beneath the surface of 
the skin, such as implants. TSA plans to procure two types of AIT 
units: one type uses millimeter-wave and the other type uses 
backscatter X-ray technology. Millimeter-wave technology beams 
millimeter-wave radio-frequency energy over the body's surface at high 
speed from two antennas simultaneously as they rotate around the body. 
The energy reflected back from the body or other objects on the body 
is used to construct a three-dimensional image. Millimeter wave 
technology produces an image that resembles a fuzzy photo negative. 
Backscatter X-ray technology uses a low-level X-ray to create a two-
sided image of the person. Backscatter technology produces an image 
that resembles a chalk etching. 

As of February 24, 2010, according to a senior TSA official, the 
agency has deployed 40 of the millimeter-wave AITs and procured 150 
backscatter X-ray units in fiscal year 2009. In early March 2010, TSA 
initiated the deployment of these backscatter units starting with two 
airports, Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, and 
Chicago O'Hare International Airport in Des Plaines, Illinois. TSA 
officials stated that they do not expect these units to be fully 
operational, however, until the second or third week of March due to 
time needed to hire and train additional personnel. TSA estimates that 
the remaining backscatter X-ray units will be installed at airports by 
the end of calendar year 2010. In addition, TSA plans to procure an 
additional 300 AIT units in fiscal year 2010, some of which it plans 
to purchase with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 
of 2009. In fiscal year 2011, TSA plans to procure 503 AIT units. TSA 
projects that a total of about 1,000 AIT systems will be deployed to 
airports by the end of December 2011. In fiscal year 2014 TSA plans to 
reach full operating capacity, having procured a total of 1,800 units 
and deployed them to 60 percent of the checkpoint lanes at Category X, 
I, and II airports.[Footnote 6] The current projected full operating 
capacity of 1,800 machines represents a more than two-fold increase 
from 878 units that TSA had previously planned. TSA officials stated 
that the cost of the AIT is about $170,000 per unit, excluding 
training, installation, and maintenance costs. In addition, in the 
fiscal year 2011 President's budget submission, TSA has requested 
$218.9 million for 3,550 additional full-time equivalents (FTE) to 
help staff the AITs deployed in that time frame. From 2012 through 
2014, as TSA deploys additional units to reach full operating 
capacity, additional staff will be needed to operate these units; such 
staffing costs will recur on an annual basis. TSA officials told us 
that three FTEs are needed to operate each unit. 

Because the AIT presents a full body image of a person during the 
screening process, concerns have been expressed that the image is an 
invasion of privacy. According to TSA, to protect passenger privacy 
and ensure anonymity, strict privacy safeguards are built into the 
procedures for use of the AIT. For example, the officer who assists 
the passenger does not see the image that the technology produces, and 
the officer who views the image is remotely located in a secure 
resolution room and does not see the passenger. Officers evaluating 
images are not permitted to take cameras, cell phones, or photo-
enabled devices into the resolution room. To further protect 
passengers' privacy, ways have been introduced to blur the passengers' 
images. The millimeter-wave technology blurs all facial features, and 
the backscatter X-ray technology has an algorithm applied to the 
entire image to protect privacy. Further, TSA has stated that the 
AIT's capability to store, print, transmit, or save the image will be 
disabled at the factory before the machines are delivered to airports, 
and each image is automatically deleted from the system after it is 
cleared by the remotely located security officer. Once the remotely 
located officer determines that threat items are not present, that 
officer communicates wirelessly to the officer assisting the 
passenger. The passenger may then continue through the security 
process. Potential threat items are resolved through a directed 
physical pat down before the passenger is cleared to enter the sterile 
area.[Footnote 7] In addition to privacy concerns, the AITs are large 
machines, and adding them to the checkpoint areas will require 
additional space, especially since the operators are physically 
segregated from the checkpoint to help ensure passenger privacy. 
Adding a significant number of additional AITs to the existing airport 
infrastructure could impose additional challenges on airport operators. 

TSA Recently Reported Efforts to Strengthen Its Operational Test and 
Evaluation Process, but It Is Not Clear Whether TSA Has Fully 
Evaluated the Relative Security Benefits and Costs of the AIT: 

In October 2009, we reported that TSA had relied on a screening 
technology in day-to-day airport operations that had not been proven 
to meet its functional requirements through operational testing and 
evaluation, contrary to TSA's acquisition guidance and a knowledge- 
based acquisition approach.[Footnote 8] We also reported that TSA had 
not operationally tested the AITs at the time of our review, and we 
recommended that TSA operationally test and evaluate technologies 
prior to deploying them.[Footnote 9] In commenting on our report, TSA 
agreed with this recommendation. Although TSA does not yet have a 
written policy requiring operational testing prior to deployment, a 
senior TSA official stated that TSA has made efforts to strengthen its 
operational test and evaluation process and that TSA is now complying 
with DHS's current acquisition directive that requires operational 
testing and evaluation be completed prior to deployment.[Footnote 10] 
According to officials, TSA is now requiring that AIT are to 
successfully complete both laboratory tests and operational tests 
prior to deployment. 

As we previously reported, TSA's experience with the explosives trace 
portal (ETP), or "puffers," demonstrates the importance of testing and 
evaluation in an operational environment.[Footnote 11] The ETP detects 
traces of explosives on a passenger by using puffs of air to dislodge 
particles from the passenger's body and clothing that the machine 
analyzes for traces of explosives. TSA procured 207 ETPs and in 2006 
deployed 101 ETPs to 36 airports, the first deployment of a checkpoint 
technology initiated by the agency.[Footnote 12] TSA deployed the ETPs 
even though tests conducted during 2004 and 2005 on earlier ETP models 
suggested that they did not demonstrate reliable performance. 
Furthermore, the ETP models that were subsequently deployed were not 
tested to prove their effective performance in an operational 
environment, contrary to TSA's acquisition guidance, which recommends 
such testing. As a result, TSA procured and deployed ETPs without 
assurance that they would perform as intended in an operational 
environment. TSA officials stated that they deployed the machines 
without resolving these issues to respond quickly to the threat of 
suicide bombers. In June 2006 TSA halted further deployment of the ETP 
because of performance, maintenance, and installation issues. 
According to a senior TSA official, as of December 31, 2009, all but 9 
ETPs have been withdrawn from airports, and 18 ETPs remain in 

Following the completion of our review, TSA officials told us that the 
AIT successfully completed operational testing at the end of calendar 
year 2009 before its deployment was fully initiated. The official also 
stated that the AIT test results were provided and reviewed by DHS's 
Acquisition Review Board prior to the board approving the AIT 
deployment. According to TSA's threat assessment, terrorists have 
various techniques for concealing explosives on their persons, as was 
evident in Mr. Abdulmutallab's attempted attack on December 25, when 
he concealed an explosive in his underwear. While TSA officials stated 
that the laboratory and operational testing of the AIT included 
placing explosive material in different locations on the 
body,[Footnote 13] it remains unclear whether the AIT would have been 
able to detect the weapon Mr. Abdulmutallab used in his attempted 
attack based on the preliminary TSA information we have received. We 
are in the process of reviewing these operational tests to assess the 
AIT's detection capabilities and to verify that TSA successfully 
completed operational testing of the AIT. 

In addition, while TSA officials stated that the AITs performed as 
well as physical pat downs in operational testing, TSA officials also 
reported they have not conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the 
original or revised AIT deployment strategy. We reported in October 
2009 that TSA had not conducted a cost-benefit analysis of checkpoint 
technologies being researched and developed, procured, and deployed 
and recommended that it do so. DHS concurred with our recommendation. 
Cost-benefit analyses are important because they help decision makers 
determine which protective measures, for instance, investments in 
technologies or in other security programs, will provide the greatest 
mitigation of risk for the resources that are available. TSA officials 
stated that a cost-benefit analysis was not completed for the AIT 
because one is not required under DHS acquisition guidance. However, 
these officials reported that they had completed, earlier in the 
program, a life-cycle cost estimate and an analysis of alternatives 
for the AIT as required by DHS, which, according to agency officials, 
provides equivalent information to a cost-benefit analysis. We are in 
the process of reviewing the alternatives analysis that was completed 
in 2008 and life-cycle cost estimates which TSA provided to us on 
March 12, 2010, to determine the extent to which these estimates 
reflect the additional costs to staff these units. We estimate that, 
based on TSA's fiscal year 2011 budget request and current AIT 
deployment strategy, increases in staffing costs due to doubling the 
number of AITs that TSA plans to deploy could add up to $2.4 billion 
over the expected service life of this investment.[Footnote 14] 

While we recognize that TSA is taking action to address a 
vulnerability of the passenger checkpoint exposed by the December 25, 
2009, attempted attack, we continue to believe that, given TSA's 
expanded deployment strategy, conducting a cost-benefit analysis of 
TSA's AIT deployment is important. An updated cost-benefit analysis 
would help inform TSA's judgment about the optimal deployment strategy 
for the AITs, as well as provide information to inform the best path 
forward, considering all elements of the screening system, for 
addressing the vulnerability identified by this attempted terrorist 

TSA Has Made Progress in Securing Air Cargo and Airport Access, but 
Challenges Remain: 

TSA Has Made Progress in Meeting the Air Cargo Screening Mandate, but 
Faces Participation, Technology, Oversight, and Inbound-Cargo 

As we previously reported in March 2009, based on preliminary 
observations from ongoing work, TSA has taken several key steps to 
meet the statutory mandate to screen 100 percent of air cargo 
transported on passenger aircraft by August 2010.[Footnote 15] Among 
the steps that TSA has taken to address domestic air cargo screening, 
the agency has revised its security programs to require more cargo to 
be screened; created the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP), a 
voluntary program to allow screening to take place earlier in the 
shipping process and at various points in the air cargo supply chain--
including before the cargo is consolidated; issued an interim final 
rule, effective November 16, 2009, that, among other things, codifies 
the statutory air cargo screening requirements of the 9/11 Commission 
Act and establishes requirements for entities participating in the 
CCSP;[Footnote 16] established a technology pilot program to 
operationally test explosives trace detection (ETD) and X-ray 
technology;[Footnote 17] and expanded its explosives detection canine 

While these steps are encouraging, TSA faces several challenges in 
meeting the air cargo screening mandate. First, although industry 
participation in the CCSP is vital to TSA's approach to move screening 
responsibilities across the U.S. supply chain, the voluntary nature of 
the program may make it difficult to attract program participants 
needed to screen the required levels of domestic cargo. Second, while 
TSA has taken steps to test technologies for screening and securing 
air cargo, it has not yet completed assessments of the various 
technologies it plans to allow air carriers and program participants 
to use in meeting the August 2010 screening mandate. According to TSA 
officials, several X-ray and explosives detection systems (EDS) 
technologies successfully passed laboratory testing, and TSA placed 
them on a December 2009 list of qualified products that industry can 
use to screen cargo after August 2010.[Footnote 18] TSA plans to 
conduct field testing and evaluation of these technologies in an 
operational environment. In addition, TSA plans to begin laboratory 
testing for ETD, Electronic Metal Detection (EMD), and additional X-
ray technologies in early 2010, and anticipates including these 
technologies on the list of qualified products the industry can use by 
the summer of 2010, before proceeding with operational testing. 
[Footnote 19] As we previously reported, based on preliminary 
observations from ongoing work, X-ray and ETD technologies, which have 
not yet been fully tested for effectiveness, are currently being used 
by industry participants to meet air cargo screening requirements. 
[Footnote 20] We are examining this issue in more detail as part of 
our ongoing review of TSA's air cargo security efforts, to be issued 
later this year. 

Third, TSA faces challenges overseeing compliance with the CCSP due to 
the size of its current Transportation Security Inspector (TSI) 
workforce. Under the CCSP, in addition to performing inspections of 
air carriers and freight forwarders, TSIs are to also perform 
compliance inspections of new regulated entities that voluntarily 
become certified cargo screening facilities (CCSF), as well as conduct 
additional CCSF inspections of existing freight forwarders. TSA 
officials have stated that the agency is evaluating the required 
number of TSIs to fully implement and oversee the program. Completing 
its staffing study may help TSA determine whether it has the necessary 
staffing resources to ensure that entities involved in the CCSP are 
meeting TSA requirements to screen and secure air cargo.[Footnote 21] 
As part of our ongoing work, we are exploring to what extent TSA is 
undertaking a staffing study. 

Finally, TSA has taken some steps to meet the screening mandate as it 
applies to inbound cargo but does not expect to achieve 100 percent 
screening of inbound cargo by the August 2010 deadline. TSA revised 
its requirements to, in general, require carriers to screen 50 percent 
of nonexempt inbound cargo. TSA also began harmonization of security 
standards with other nations through bilateral and quadrilateral 
discussions.[Footnote 22] In addition, TSA continues to work with 
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to leverage an existing CBP system 
to identify and target high-risk air cargo. However, TSA does not 
expect to meet the mandated 100 percent screening level by August 
2010. This is due, in part, to challenges TSA faces in harmonizing the 
agency's air cargo security standards with those of other nations. 
Moreover, TSA's international inspection resources are limited. We 
will continue to explore these issues as part of our ongoing review of 
TSA's air cargo security efforts, to be issued later this year. 

TSA Has Taken Actions to Strengthen Airport Security, but Faces 
Challenges That Include Assessing Risk and Evaluating Worker Screening 

In our September 2009 report on airport security, we reported that TSA 
has implemented a variety of programs and protective actions to 
strengthen the security of commercial airports.[Footnote 23] For 
example, in March 2007, TSA implemented a random worker screening 
program--the Aviation Direct Access Screening Program (ADASP)-- 
nationwide to enforce access procedures, such as ensuring that workers 
do not possess unauthorized items when entering secured areas. 
[Footnote 24] In addition, TSA has expanded requirements for 
background checks and for the population of individuals who are 
subject to these checks, and has established a statutorily directed 
pilot program to assess airport security technology.[Footnote 25] 

As we reported in September 2009, while TSA has taken numerous steps 
to enhance airport security, it continues to face challenges in 
several areas, such as assessing risk, evaluating worker screening 
methods, addressing airport technology needs, and developing a unified 
national strategy for airport security.[Footnote 26] For example, 
while TSA has taken steps to assess risk related to airport security, 
it has not conducted a comprehensive risk assessment based on 
assessments of threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences, as required 
by DHS's National Infrastructure Protection Plan. To address these 
issues, we recommended, among other things, that TSA develop a 
comprehensive risk assessment of airport security and milestones for 
its completion, and evaluate whether the current approach to 
conducting vulnerability assessments appropriately assesses 
vulnerabilities. DHS concurred with these recommendations and stated 
that TSA is taking actions to implement them. 

Our September 2009 report also reported the results of TSA efforts to 
help identify the potential costs and benefits of 100 percent worker 
screening and other worker screening methods.[Footnote 27] In July 
2009 TSA issued a final report on the results and concluded that 
random screening is a more cost-effective approach because it appears 
"roughly" as effective in identifying contraband items at less cost 
than 100 percent worker screening.[Footnote 28] However, the report 
also identified limitations in the design and evaluation of the 
program and in the estimation of costs, such as the limited number of 
participating airports, the limited evaluation of certain screening 
techniques, the approximate nature of the cost estimates, and the 
limited amount of information available regarding operational effects 
and other costs. Given the significance of these limitations, we 
reported in September 2009 that it is unclear whether random worker 
screening is more or less cost effective than 100 percent worker 
screening. In addition, TSA did not document key aspects of the 
pilot's design, methodology, and evaluation, such as a data analysis 
plan, limiting the usefulness of these efforts. To address this, we 
recommended that TSA ensure that future airport security pilot program 
evaluation efforts include a well-developed and well-documented 
evaluation plan, to which DHS concurred. 

Moreover, although TSA has taken steps to develop biometric worker 
credentialing, it is unclear to what extent TSA plans to address 
statutory requirements regarding biometric technology, such as 
developing or requiring biometric access controls at airports, 
establishing comprehensive standards, and determining the best way to 
incorporate these decisions into airports' existing systems.[Footnote 
29] To address this issue, we have recommended that TSA develop 
milestones for meeting statutory requirements for, among other things, 
performance standards for biometric airport access control systems. 
DHS concurred with this recommendation. Finally, TSA's efforts to 
enhance the security of the nation's airports have not been guided by 
a national strategy that identifies key elements, such as goals, 
priorities, performance measures, and required resources. To better 
ensure that airport stakeholders take a unified approach to airport 
security, we recommended that TSA develop a national strategy that 
incorporates key characteristics of effective security strategies, 
such as measurable goals and priorities, to which DHS concurred and 
stated that TSA is taking action to implement it. 

Project Newton May Result in New Explosives Testing Standards for 
TSA's Screening Technology: 

As we discussed in our October 2009 report, TSA and the DHS Science 
and Technology Directorate (S&T) are pursuing an effort--known as 
Project Newton--which uses computer modeling to determine the effects 
of explosives on aircraft and develop new requirements to respond to 
emerging threats from explosives.[Footnote 30] Specifically, TSA and 
S&T are reviewing the scientific basis of their current detection 
standards for explosives detection technologies to screen passengers, 
carry-on items, and checked baggage. As part of this work, TSA and S&T 
are conducting studies to update their understanding of the effects 
that explosives may have on aircraft, such as the consequences of 
detonating explosives on board an in-flight aircraft. Senior TSA and 
DHS S&T officials stated that the two agencies decided to initiate 
this review because they could not fully identify or validate the 
scientific support requiring explosives detection technologies to 
identify increasingly smaller amounts of some explosives over time as 
required by TSA policy. Officials stated that they used the best 
available information to originally develop detection standards for 
explosives detection technologies. According to these officials, TSA's 
understanding of how explosives affect aircraft has largely been based 
on data obtained from live-fire explosive tests on aircraft hulls at 
ground level. Officials further stated that due to the expense and 
complexity of live-fire tests, the Federal Aviation Administration, 
TSA, and DHS collectively have conducted only a limited number of 
tests on retired aircraft, which limited the amount of data available 
for analysis. As part of this ongoing review, TSA and S&T are 
simulating the complex dynamics of explosive blast effects on an in-
flight aircraft by using a computer model based on advanced software 
developed by the national laboratories. TSA believes that the computer 
model will be able to accurately simulate hundreds of explosives tests 
by simulating the effects that explosives will have when placed in 
different locations within various aircraft models. As discussed in 
our October 2009 report, TSA and S&T officials expect that the results 
of this work will provide a much fuller understanding of the explosive 
detection requirements and the threat posed by various amounts of 
different explosives, and will use this information to determine 
whether any modifications to existing detection standards should be 
made moving forward. We are currently reviewing Project Newton and 
will report on it at a later date. 

Madame Chairwoman, that concludes my statement and I would be happy to 
answer any questions. 

Contacts and Acknowledgments: 

For additional information about this statement, please contact 
Stephen M. Lord at (202) 512-4379 or Contact points for 
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found 
on the last page of this statement. 

In addition to the contact named above, staff who made key 
contributions to this statement were E. Anne Laffoon and Steve D. 
Morris, Assistant Directors; Nabajyoti Barkakati, Carissa Bryant, 
Frances Cook, Joseph E. Dewechter, Amy Frazier, Barbara Guffy, David 
K. Hooper, Richard B. Hung, Lori Kmetz, Linda S. Miller, Timothy M. 
Persons, Yanina Golburt Samuels, Emily Suarez-Harris, and Rebecca 
Kuhlmann Taylor. 

[End of section] 


[1] Sterile areas are areas of airports where passengers wait after 
screening to board departing aircraft. 

[2] See for example, GAO, Homeland Security: Better Use of Terrorist 
Watchlist Information and Improvements in Deployment of Passenger 
Screening Checkpoint Technologies Could Further Strengthen Security, 
[hyperlink,] (Washington, 
D.C.: Jan. 27, 2010); Aviation Security: DHS and TSA Have Researched, 
Developed, and Begun Deploying Passenger Checkpoint Screening 
Technologies, but Continue to Face Challenges, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 7, 
2009); Homeland Security: DHS's Progress and Challenges in Key Areas 
of Maritime, Aviation, and Cybersecurity, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 2, 
2009); Aviation Security: TSA Has Completed Key Activities Associated 
with Implementing Secure Flight, but Additional Actions Are Needed to 
Mitigate Risks, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington, D.C.: May 13, 2009); Aviation Security: Preliminary 
Observations on TSA's Progress and Challenges in Meeting the Statutory 
Mandate for Screening Air Cargo on Passenger Aircraft, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 18, 
2009); Aviation Security: Vulnerabilities Exposed Through Covert 
Testing of TSA's Passenger Screening Process, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 15, 
2007); and Terrorist Watch List Screening: Opportunities Exist to 
Enhance Management Oversight, Reduce Vulnerabilities in Agency 
Screening Processes, and Expand Use of the List, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 11, 

[3] [hyperlink,]; [hyperlink,]; [hyperlink,], and [hyperlink,]. 

[4] For purposes of this statement, the term freight forwarders only 
includes those freight forwarders that are regulated by TSA, also 
referred to as indirect air carriers. 

[5] See generally Aviation and Transportation Security Act, Pub. L. 
No. 107-71, 115 Stat. 597 (2001). 

[6] There are about 450 commercial airports in the United States. TSA 
classifies airports into one of five categories (X, I, II, III, and 
IV) based on various factors, such as the total number of takeoffs and 
landings annually, the extent to which passengers are screened at the 
airport, and other special security considerations. In general, 
category X airports have the largest number of passenger boardings, 
and category IV airports have the smallest. 

[7] TSA stated that it continues to evaluate possible display options 
that include a "stick figure" or "cartoon-like" form to provide 
greater privacy protection to the individual being screened while 
still allowing the unit operator or automated detection algorithms to 
detect possible threats. DHS is working directly with technology 
providers to develop advanced screening algorithms for the AIT that 
would utilize Automatic Target Recognition to identify and highlight 
possible threats. 

[8] [hyperlink,]. 

[9] Operational testing refers to testing in an operational 
environment in order to verify that new systems are operationally 
effective, supportable, and suitable. 

[10] DHS Acquisition Management Directive 102-01, Jan. 20, 2010. 

[11] We have previously reported that deploying technologies that have 
not successfully completed operational testing and evaluation can lead 
to cost overruns and underperformance. In addition, our reviews have 
shown that leading commercial firms follow a knowledge-based approach 
to major acquisitions and do not proceed with large investments unless 
the product's design demonstrates its ability to meet functional 
requirements and be stable. The developer must show that the product 
can be manufactured within cost, schedule, and quality targets and is 
reliable before production begins and the system is used in day-to-day 
operations. See [hyperlink,] 
and GAO, Best Practices: Using a Knowledge-Based Approach to Improve 
Weapon Acquisition, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 

[12] TSA deployed the ETPs from January to June 2006. 

[13] The results of TSA's laboratory and operational testing are 

[14] To estimate the cost of the additional staff needed to operate 
the AIT machines during their service life as a result of TSA's 
increased deployment of the AIT, we used information in the 
President's Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2011 and from interviews 
with TSA officials. We identified staffing costs to operate each AIT 
($369,764) and multiplied this figure by the number of additional AITs 
that TSA has recently planned to deploy by 2014 (922 units) to 
calculate the additional staffing costs, which equaled $340,922,408. 
We then multiplied the additional staffing costs of $340,922,408 by 7 
years to calculate the additional staffing cost to operate additional 
AIT units during their expected service life, which equaled 

[15] GAO-09-422T. The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 
Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Commission Act) requires that by August 
2010, 100 percent of cargo--domestic and inbound--transported on 
passenger aircraft be physically screened. The 9/11 Commission Act 
establishes minimum standards for screening air cargo and defines 
screening for purposes of the air cargo screening mandate as a 
physical examination or nonintrusive methods of assessing whether 
cargo poses a threat to transportation security. Solely performing a 
review of information about the contents of cargo or verifying the 
identity of the cargo's shipper does not constitute screening for 
purposes of satisfying the mandate. See Pub. L. No. 110-53, § 1602(a), 
121 Stat. 266, 477-79 (codified at 49 U.S.C. § 44901(g)). For the 
purposes of this statement, domestic air cargo refers to cargo 
transported by air within the United States and from the United States 
to a foreign location by both U.S. and foreign-based air carriers; and 
inbound cargo refers to cargo transported by U.S. and foreign-based 
air carriers from a foreign location to the United States. 

[16] See Air Cargo Screening, 74 Fed. Reg. 47672 (Sept. 16, 2009). 

[17] ETD requires human operators to collect samples of items to be 
screened with swabs, which are chemically analyzed to identify any 
traces of explosives material. 

[18] EDS uses computer-aided tomography X-rays to examine objects 
inside baggage and identify the characteristic signatures of threat 

[19] EMD devices are capable of detecting metallic-based explosives, 
such as wires, within a variety of perishable commodities at the cargo-
piece, parcel, and pallet level. 

[20] [hyperlink,]. 

[21] For additional information on TSA's staffing study, see GAO, 
Aviation Security: Status of Transportation Security Inspector 
Workforce, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington D.C.: Feb. 6, 2009). 

[22] The term harmonization is used to describe countries' efforts to 
coordinate their security practices to enhance security and increase 
efficiency by avoiding duplication of effort. 

[23] GAO, Aviation Security: A National Strategy and Other Actions 
Would Strengthen TSA's Efforts to Secure Commercial Airport Perimeters 
and Access Controls, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 30, 

[24] For the purposes of this statement "secured area" is used 
generally to refer to areas specified in an airport security program 
that require restricted access. See 49 C.F.R. §§ 1540.5, 1542.201. 

[25] According to TSA officials, the agency established this program 
in response to a provision enacted through the Aviation and 
Transportation Security Act. See Pub. L. No. 107-71 § 106(d), 115 
Stat. at 610 (codified at 49 U.S.C. § 44903(c)(3)). 

[26] [hyperlink,]. 

[27] To respond to the threat posed by airport workers, the 
Explanatory Statement accompanying the DHS Appropriations Act, 2008, 
directed TSA to use $15 million of its appropriation to conduct a 
pilot program at seven airports. Explanatory Statement accompanying 
Division E of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Pub. L. No. 
110-161, Div. E, 121 Stat. 1844, 2042 (2007), at 1048. While the 
Statement refers to these pilot programs as airport employee screening 
pilots, for the purposes of this statement, we use "worker screening" 
to refer to the screening of all individuals who work at the airport. 

[28] Transportation Security Administration, Airport Employee 
Screening Pilot Program Study: Fiscal Year 2008 Report to Congress 
(Washington, D.C., July 7, 2009). 

[29] Among other things, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism 
Prevention Act of 2004 directed TSA, in consultation with industry 
representatives, to establish comprehensive technical and operational 
system requirements and performance standards for the use of biometric 
identifier technology in airport access control systems. See Pub. L. 
No. 108-458, § 4011, 118 Stat. 3638, 3712-14 (2004) (codified at 49 
U.S.C. § 44903(h)(5)). 

[30] [hyperlink,]. 

[End of section] 

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