Homeland Security:

Posthearing Questions Related to Aviation and Port Security

GAO-04-315R: Published: Dec 12, 2003. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 2003.

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Contact:

Gerald L. Dillingham
(202) 512-4803
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

This letter responds to a Congressional request that we provide answers to questions relating to our September 9, 2003, testimony on transportation security.

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) 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. 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. 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.

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