Homeland Security:

Agency Resources Address Violations of Restricted Airspace, but Management Improvements Are Needed

GAO-05-928T: Published: Jul 21, 2005. Publicly Released: Jul 21, 2005.

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Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. GAO was asked to review (1) the threat assessment for U.S. aviation, (2) violations of restricted airspace since September 11, 2001, (3) agencies' individual or coordinated steps to secure U.S. aviation, and (4) interagency policies and procedures to manage the response to restricted airspace violations. GAO will issue a classified report responding to this request later this year. To keep this testimony unclassified, GAO focused on the latter three questions.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. Federal agencies have acted individually or have coordinated to enhance aviation security. For example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) established a national operations center that disseminates operational- and intelligence-related information, and has enhanced passenger and checked baggage screening, secured cockpit doors, and assessed the risk to some, but not all, commercial airports. Also, few general aviation airport owners have conducted risk assessments. The North American Aerospace Defense Command's mission was expanded to include monitoring domestic air traffic and conducting air patrols. Collectively, the agencies are operating the National Capital Region Coordination Center to secure the National Capital Region. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. Specifically, the agencies were operating without (1) an organization in the lead, (2) fully developed interagency policies and procedures for the airspace violations response teleconferencing system, (3) information sharing protocols and procedures, or (4) accepted definitions of a violation. As a result, opportunities may be missed to enhance the security of U.S. aviation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2006, FAA informed us that the office of the Strategic Operations Security Manager has access to the information needed to include pilot deviations data and enforcement activities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to ensure that FAA shares sufficient data from its airspace violation database (also known as its pilot deviations database) with FAA's office of the Strategic Operations Security Manager to meet the needs of that office.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that DOD, DHS, and DOT work together to develop a concept of operations plan or other relevant document to guide the interagency process of responding to violations in all U.S. airspace. The Department of Homeland Security worked with its interagency partners and issued a National Strategy for Aviation Security in March 2007 that will serve as the overall concept of operations to protect U.S. aviation. The strategy includes several supporting plans and establishes and describes the roles and mission of the agencies involved in providing air security through out U.S airspace, to include the establishment of strategic objectives. The strategy includes how the interagency process should work, how at times different agencies may have lead or supporting roles depending on the nature of the threat and the desired outcome of the U.S. government, and concept of collecting and sharing information and intelligence to deter and respond to aviation threats in the U.S.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to develop a concept of operations plan or other relevant document to guide the interagency process of responding to violations in all U.S. airspace.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. At the time of our review, agencies that responded to violations of restricted airspace did not have a forum to evaluate DEN procedures, and make suggestions and improvements. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended DOD, DHS, and DOT determine the degree to which interagency policies, procedures, and other guidance on the DEN are needed to evaluate its effectiveness and identify potential improvements. In July 2007, FAA provided GAO their DEN Customer Guide updated in June 2007 to include interagency suggestions and improvements that were made through the Interagency Airspace Protection Working Group Charter that was created on October 20, 2005 to serve as an interagency forum to evaluate and make improvements in procedures to respond to violations of restricted airspace as well as other interagency concerns. According to the FAA Manager of Strategic Operations Security the primary method to maintain, correct, evaluate and improve or otherwise modify the DEN procedures/policy guide is now through the Interagency Airspace Protection Working Group Charter, which meets weekly. As a result, agencies now have a forum to evaluate, present and make improvements in DEN procedures to better communicate with each other during incidents and more effectively respond to violations in restricted airspace. Members of the working group include DOD, DHS, DOT, and other agencies.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to determine the degree to which interagency policies, procedures, and other guidance on the Domestic Events Network are needed to evaluate its effectiveness and identify potential improvements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended DOD, DHS, and DOT determine the degree to which interagency policies, procedures, and other guidance on the DEN are needed to evaluate its effectiveness and identify potential improvements. In July 2007, FAA provided GAO their DEN Customer Guide updated in June 2007 and the Interagency Airspace Protection Working Group Charter dated October 20, 2005. According to the FAA Manager of Strategic Operations Security the primary method to maintain, correct, and improve or otherwise modify the DEN procedures/policy guide is through the Interagency Airspace Protection Working Group Charter, which meets weekly. Members of the working group include DOD, DHS, DOT, and other agencies.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to determine the degree to which interagency policies, procedures, and other guidance on the Domestic Events Network are needed to evaluate its effectiveness and identify potential improvements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA has completed a Domestic Events Network guide and has distributed the guide to all pertinent agencies. The guide includes participation requirements for agencies such as compatible communication equipment, secure access to conferences, and providing point of contact information. The guide also includes protocols such as caller and receiver self-identification and highlights key threat identification information that must be reported over the teleconference. According to FAA officials, FAA has also included major airlines as participants so that carriers can provide real-time situational awareness as they are received from their flight crews.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to determine the degree to which interagency policies, procedures, and other guidance on the Domestic Events Network are needed to evaluate its effectiveness and identify potential improvements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that the DOD, DHS, and DOT work together to determine the extent to which one agency should be in charge of leading the interagency process of responding to violations of restricted airspace as they occur. The Department of Homeland Security issued the National Strategy for Aviation Security in March 2007, which addressed the extent to which one agency should be in charge of leading the interagency process of responding to violations of restricted airspace. In the strategy DHS is given overall responsibility for the operational coordination with other U.S. government departments and agencies in the prevention and response to aviation security threats. Moreover, the strategy recognizes the unique operating environment of the air domain and states that the DHS, DOT, DOJ, DOD, and DOS, DOE, DOC, and the ODNI may need to perform a specific lead or supporting functional role based on the threat scenario and the outcome desired by the U.S government.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to determine the extent to which one agency should be in charge of leading the interagency process of responding to violations of restricted airspace as they occur.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that the DOD, DHS, and DOT work together to determine the extent to which one agency should be in charge of leading the interagency process of responding to violations of restricted airspace as they occur. The Department of Homeland Security issued the National Strategy for Aviation Security in March 2007, which addressed the extent to which one agency should be in charge of leading the interagency process of responding to violations of restricted airspace. In the strategy DHS is given overall responsibility for the operational coordination with other U.S. government departments and agencies in the prevention and response to aviation security threats. Moreover, the strategy recognizes the unique operating environment of the air domain and states that the DHS, DOT, DOJ, DOD, and DOS, DOE, DOC, and the ODNI may need to perform a specific lead or supporting functional role based on the threat scenario and the outcome desired by the U.S government.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to determine the extent to which one agency should be in charge of leading the interagency process of responding to violations of restricted airspace as they occur.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that the DOD, DHS, and DOT work together to determine the extent to which one agency should be in charge of leading the interagency process of responding to violations of restricted airspace as they occur. The Department of Homeland Security issued the National Strategy for Aviation Security in March 2007, which addressed the extent to which one agency should be in charge of leading the interagency process of responding to violations of restricted airspace. In the strategy, DHS is given overall responsibility for the operational coordination with other U.S. government departments and agencies in the prevention and response to aviation security threats. Moreover, the strategy recognizes the unique operating environment of the air domain and states that the DHS, DOT, DOJ, DOD, and DOS, DOE, DOC, and the ODNI may need to perform a specific lead or supporting functional role based on the threat scenario and the outcome desired by the U.S government.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to determine the extent to which one agency should be in charge of leading the interagency process of responding to violations of restricted airspace as they occur.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to establish milestones with specific actions to complete risk assessments applicable to the commercial aviation sector. On July 5, 2007, TSA reported that it has established a system with milestones and specific actions to complete these assessments at applicable commercial airports. TSA reported that it now conducts Joint Vulnerability Assessments (JVAs) in accordance with 49 USC Sec. 44904, which requires JVAs at those airports identified as critical infrastructure; or directed to support National Security Special Events; or other significant events in coordination with the FBI. The assessment process includes criteria to determine when assessments are completed. Scheduling these assessments are based on previous assessments done in the prior three years, assessments done for National Security Special Events, and level of threat assessment. By the end of FY 2007, TSA will have completed 53 JVAs at commercial airports with 14 JVAs scheduled for FY08.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary of TSA to establish milestones with specific actions needed to complete risk assessments applicable to the commercial aviation sector.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Transportation Security Administration

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that DOD, DHS, and DOT work together to develop a concept of operations plan or other relevant document to guide the interagency process of responding to violations in all U.S. airspace. The Department of Homeland Security worked with its interagency partners and issued a National Strategy for Aviation Security in March 2007 that will serve as the overall concept of operations to protect U.S. aviation. The strategy includes several supporting plans and establishes and describes the roles and mission of the agencies involved in providing air security through out U.S airspace, to include the establishment of strategic objectives. The strategy includes how the interagency process should work, how at times different agencies may have lead or supporting roles depending on the nature of the threat and the desired outcome of the U.S. government, and concept of collecting and sharing information and intelligence to deter and respond to aviation threats in the U.S.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to develop a concept of operations plan or other relevant document to guide the interagency process of responding to violations in all U.S. airspace.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that DOD, DHS, and DOT work together to develop a concept of operations plan or other relevant document to guide the interagency process of responding to violations in all U.S. airspace. The Department of Homeland Security worked with its interagency partners and issued a National Strategy for Aviation Security in March 2007 that will serve as the overall concept of operations to protect U.S. aviation. The strategy includes several supporting plans and establishes and describes the roles and mission of the agencies involved in providing air security through out U.S airspace, to include the establishment of strategic objectives. The strategy includes how the interagency process should work, how at times different agencies may have lead or supporting roles depending on the nature of the threat and the desired outcome of the U.S. government, and concept of collecting and sharing information and intelligence to deter and respond to aviation threats in the U.S.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to develop a concept of operations plan or other relevant document to guide the interagency process of responding to violations in all U.S. airspace.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that DOD, DHS, and DOT establish information sharing requirements and protocols. In March 2007, the Department of Homeland Security in accordance with National Security Presidential Directive 47 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 16, issued a National Strategy for Aviation Security. In this strategy the Director of National Intelligence was given the responsibility of collecting and disseminating relevant intelligence for air threats, and for defining the standards for information sharing and intelligence integration across the air transportation. The strategy also includes supporting plans to include an Air Domain Surveillance and Intelligence Integration Plan. Prior to this strategy the FAA Domestic Events Network already included sharing requirements and protocols, and in a March 2006 letter from DOT to OMB on our recommendations, DOT stated that FAA has been working with its interagency partners to strengthen information sharing including radar and intelligence information. For example, TSA and FAA established a formal mechanism for sharing classified information at the NCRCC; and DOD, DHS, and FAA also established a formal mechanism to share a "No fly List" in September 2005.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to establish information sharing requirements and protocols.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather; the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions; or pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. During our review, we identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations, and the need for FAA to increase interagency sharing of some of its data to improve the multi-agency response to violations and to take preventative actions, if possible, to deter air space violations. We recommended that FAA obtain the necessary clearances for appropriate FAA personnel to ensure that they are not excluded from airspace violation conferences that require such clearances. FAA has implemented this recommendation. In May 2006, FAA reported FAA has provided all but two of the fourteen FAA personnel with the necessary security clearances. The remaining two clearances have been expedited.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to obtain necessary security clearances for appropriate FAA personnel to ensure that they are not excluded from airspace violations conferences that require such clearances.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  14. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2006, FAA began to distribute to DOD and other key airspace security stakeholders a monthly spreadsheet of all pilot deviations and enforcement activities. The distributed information also includes data on repeat offenders and operators and access to aircraft and airman registration information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Transportation should work together to determine the extent to which key elements of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) pilot deviations database could be shared with the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2006, FAA informed us that it is providing to DOD and other air security stakeholders a monthly spreadsheet of all pilot deviations and enforcement activities. Other information that FAA is distributing includes data on repeat offenders and operators and access to aircraft and airmen registration information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Transportation should work together to determine the extent to which key elements of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) pilot deviations database could be shared with the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended DOD, DHS, and DOT establish common definitions. FAA established common definitions for its interagency partner in its DEN Users Guidebook that was issued to all interagency partners in October 2005. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security issued a National Strategy for Aviation Security in March 2007. The strategy calls for enhanced situational air domain awareness in which information sources will be combined and shared with public, private, and users at the federal, state, and local levels, to include common definitions and sharing protocols.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to establish common definitions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  17. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended DOD, DHS, and DOT establish common definitions. FAA established common definitions for its interagency partner in its DEN Users Guidebook that was issued to all interagency partners in October 2005. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security issued a National Strategy for Aviation Security in March 2007. The strategy calls for enhanced situational air domain awareness in which information sources will be combined and shared with public, private, and users at the federal, state, and local levels, to include common definitions and sharing protocols.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to establish common definitions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  18. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended DOD, DHS, and DOT establish common definitions. FAA established common definitions for its interagency partner in its DEN Users Guidebook that was issued to all interagency partners in October 2005. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security issued a National Strategy for Aviation Security in March 2007. The strategy calls for enhanced situational air domain awareness in which information sources will be combined and shared with public, private, and users at the federal, state, and local levels, to include common definitions and sharing protocols.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to establish common definitions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  19. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that DOD, DHS, and DOT establish information sharing requirements and protocols. In March 2007 the Department of Homeland Security in accordance with National Security Presidential Directive 47 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 16, issued a National Strategy for Aviation Security. In this strategy the Director of National Intelligence was given the responsibility of collecting and disseminating relevant intelligence for air threats, and for defining the standards for information sharing and intelligence integration across the air transportation. The strategy also includes supporting plans to include a Air Domain Surveillance and Intelligence Integration Plan. Prior to this strategy the FAA Domestic Events Network already included sharing requirements and protocols, and in a March 2006 letter from DOT to OMB on our recommendations, DOT stated that FAA has been working with its interagency partners to strengthen information sharing including radar and intelligence information. For example, TSA and FAA established a formal mechanism for sharing classified information at the NCRCC; and DOD, DHS, and FAA also established a formal mechanism to share a "No fly List" in September 2005.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to establish information sharing requirements and protocols.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  20. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Securing and defending U.S. airspace is an interagency mission that depends on close interagency coordination and information sharing. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported about 3,400 violations of restricted airspace from September 12, 2001, to December 31, 2004, most of which were committed by general aviation pilots. Violations can occur because (1) pilots may divert from their flight plan to avoid bad weather, (2) the Administration may establish newly restricted airspace with little warning, and pilots in the air may be unaware of the new restrictions, or (3) pilots do not check for notices of restrictions, as required. Also, terrorists may deliberately enter restricted airspace to test the government's response or carry out an attack. GAO identified gaps in the simultaneous, time-critical, multi-agency response to airspace violations. FAA established the Domestic Events Network, an interagency teleconferencing system that permits the agencies to communicate about and coordinate their response to violations of restricted airspace. While it may not be possible to prevent all violations or deter all attacks, GAO identified some gaps in policies and procedures. In testimony (GAO-05-928T), GAO recommended that DOD, DHS, and DOT establish information sharing requirements and protocols. In March 2007, the Department of Homeland Security in accordance with National Security Presidential Directive 47 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 16, issued a National Strategy for Aviation Security. In this strategy the Director of National Intelligence was given the responsibility of collecting and disseminating relevant intelligence for air threats, and for defining the standards for information sharing and intelligence integration across the air transportation. The strategy also includes supporting plans to include an Air Domain Surveillance and Intelligence Integration Plan. Prior to this strategy the FAA Domestic Events Network already included sharing requirements and protocols, and in a March 2006 letter from DOT to OMB on our recommendations, DOT stated that FAA has been working with its interagency partners to strengthen information sharing including radar and intelligence information. For example, TSA and FAA established a formal mechanism for sharing classified information at the NCRCC; and DOD, DHS, and FAA also established a formal mechanism to share a "No fly List" in September 2005.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation should work together to establish information sharing requirements and protocols.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security: Transportation Security Administration

 

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