Transportation Security Information Sharing:

Stakeholder Satisfaction Varies; TSA Could Take Additional Actions to Strengthen Efforts

GAO-14-506: Published: Jun 24, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 2014.

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What GAO Found

Satisfaction with the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) security-related products and the mechanisms used to disseminate them varied by transportation mode, and TSA has not used the results of GAO's 2011 survey of stakeholders to identify the causes of information-sharing gaps or actions to address them. For example, in the survey conducted for this report, 59 percent of stakeholders (196 of 335) indicated they were satisfied with the products they received from TSA, but less than half of aviation stakeholders (71 of 149) reported being satisfied. Similarly, 59 percent of stakeholders (195 of 331) indicated that they were satisfied with the mechanisms TSA uses to disseminate transportation security–related information, while 39 percent of highway (9 of 23) and 46 percent of rail (40 of 87) stakeholders reported they were satisfied. Further, both GAO's 2011 and 2013 survey found stakeholders from certain modes were more likely to report that they received each of TSA's product types, and not all stakeholders reported that they were familiar with TSA's mechanisms. Assessing the results of GAO's current survey could better position TSA to look for causes of such gaps and identify solutions to improve its information-sharing efforts.

Percentage of Stakeholders Who Reported Being Satisfied with TSA Products and Mechanisms, by Mode, 2013

HL_5 - 441159

TSA has some mechanisms in place to collect stakeholder feedback, such as surveys attached to its products and informal feedback collected at meetings with stakeholders, but TSA has not systematically obtained, documented, and incorporated stakeholder feedback to improve information sharing. TSA is beginning to take steps to systematically obtain stakeholder satisfaction survey data. However, TSA is in the initial planning stages of this effort and has not determined whether or how it plans to document informal feedback—used by the majority of stakeholders GAO surveyed—or identified how it plans to incorporate all of the feedback collected. Consistent with customer service best practices, TSA could better ensure it is meeting stakeholder needs by including in its planned framework a systematic process to document informal feedback, and how it plans to incorporate all of the feedback it receives, both formal and informal.

Why GAO Did This Study

The U.S. transportation system—composed of multiple interconnected modes, including aviation, freight and passenger rail, highway, public transit, and pipelines—moves billions of passengers and tons of goods yearly. The system's size and importance to the country's safety, security, and economic well-being make it an attractive target for terrorists. The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 mandated GAO to conduct a biennial survey of satisfaction of recipients of transportation security–related information. GAO last conducted this survey in 2011.

This report addresses the extent to which (1) stakeholders report they are satisfied with TSA's security-related products and mechanisms used to disseminate them and TSA has used GAO's prior survey information to identify any areas for improvement, and (2) TSA obtains, documents, and incorporates stakeholder feedback. To do this, GAO conducted a survey of 481 stakeholders from November 2013 through January 2014 and received a 70 percent response rate. While the responses cannot be generalized, they provide insight. GAO also analyzed 2013 TSA survey data and conducted interviews with agency officials. An electronic supplement— GAO 14 488SP —provides survey results.

What GAO Recommends

Among other things, GAO recommends that TSA assess GAO's survey results to identify causes of information-sharing gaps and actions to address them, and systematically document and incorporate stakeholder feedback. DHS concurred.

For more information, contact Jennifer Grover at (202) 512-7141 or groverj@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2011, we conducted a survey of transportation stakeholders' satisfaction with the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) information-sharing efforts and identified opportunities for TSA to improve the quality and availability of disseminated information. We conducted a subsequent review of TSA's information-sharing efforts in 2013 and found that TSA had not systematically reviewed the results of our 2011 survey to help identify the causes of information-sharing gaps and actions to address them. Moreover, our 2013 survey of transportation stakeholders identified a number of the same gaps we reported in 2011, including variations among stakeholders in satisfaction with TSA's information-sharing products and mechanisms. As a result, we recommended that the TSA Administrator assess the results of our 2013 transportation stakeholder satisfaction survey to help identify the causes of information-sharing gaps and actions to address them. In April 2015, TSA provided evidence of a number of actions it has taken to identify such gaps and develop plans to address them. Specifically, TSA prepared a set of slides analyzing the results of our survey, and briefed senior leadership in its Office of Intelligence and Analysis and members of its Information Sharing Integrated Project Team (IPT) on these results. Based on the results, TSA also outlined reasons that the survey results were lower than TSA would like and that the satisfaction varied across stakeholder groups, including that TSA has not collected and analyzed satisfaction data broken down by stakeholder groups. In addition, TSA identified several initiatives that it plans to implement to help it to better understand the reason for variation in satisfaction across transportation stakeholders and to improve satisfaction with its information-sharing products and mechanisms. These initiatives include the establishment of a center for aviation stakeholders to collaborate and share information, increased engagement with stakeholders on their intelligence needs and TSA's products, expanded feedback surveys to allow TSA to identify variation in satisfaction by stakeholder group, improved data collection and analysis of satisfaction with products through transition to an electronic production process, and efforts to improve its intelligence analysts' proficiency in writing, analytics, counterterrorism, and their understanding of the transportation industry. These actions are consistent with our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help strengthen information sharing with transportation stakeholders and ensure that stakeholders receive security-related information in a timely manner, the TSA Administrator should assess the results of our 2013 transportation stakeholder satisfaction survey to help identify the causes of information-sharing gaps and actions to address them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Transportation Security Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: We found that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had some mechanisms in place to collect feedback from transportation stakeholders regarding TSA's efforts to share security-related information, such as surveys attached to its products and informal feedback collected at meetings with stakeholders. However, TSA had not systematically obtained, documented, and incorporated stakeholder feedback to improve its efforts to share security-related information with transportation stakeholders. At the time of our review, TSA had begun to take steps to systematically obtain stakeholder satisfaction survey data, but was in the initial planning stages and had not determined whether or how it planned to document informal feedback or identified how it planned to incorporate all the feedback collected. As a result, we recommended that the TSA Administrator include in TSA's planned customer feedback framework a systematic process to document informal feedback, and how it incorporates all of the feedback TSA receives, both formal and informal. In April 2015, TSA provided evidence of its actions to develop these processes. Specifically, TSA developed a standard operating procedure to organize how its offices solicit, receive, respond to, and document both formal and informal customer feedback on its information-sharing efforts, which delineates a systematic process for doing so. TSA also developed a TSA-wide standard survey for its offices to use to obtain formal and informal feedback on specific products, and created an information-sharing email inbox to which all survey responses will be sent, evaluated, and distributed to the appropriate office for action. These efforts are consistent with our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help strengthen information sharing with transportation stakeholders and ensure that stakeholders receive security-related information in a timely manner, the TSA Administrator should include in its planned customer feedback framework a systematic process to document informal feedback, and how it incorporates all of the feedback TSA receives, both formal and informal.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Transportation Security Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: We found that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had not developed performance measures to assess its efforts to provide stakeholders with useful and timely transportation security information. As a result, we recommended that the TSA Administrator establish such performance measures. In March 2015, TSA's Office of Intelligence and Analysis-the TSA office which receives intelligence information and designs intelligence products-approved the establishment of two performance measures related to its information-sharing efforts. These measures will assess whether customers report satisfaction with TSA's products, and whether customers report that they found the information valuable. These measures are consistent with our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help strengthen information sharing with transportation stakeholders and ensure that stakeholders receive security-related information in a timely manner, the TSA Administrator should establish performance measures to help assess the results of efforts to provide stakeholders with useful and timely transportation security information.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Transportation Security Administration

 

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