Air Cargo Screening Problems Persist: GAO

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is still contending with issues reported last June that could affect the agency's ability to meet an end-of-year deadline for screening all international cargo on passenger aircraft, congressional investigators said in a report made public on Wednesday (see GSN, Jan. 24).

The agency has yet to establish a system to confirm cargo screening data collected from airlines and other sources, according to the Government Accountability Office (see GSN, July 1, 2010; U.S. Government Accountability Office release, March 9).

"As of March 2011, TSA officials stated that current screening percentages are based on actual data reported by air carriers, but stated that it is difficult to verify the accuracy of the screening data reported by air carriers," the report says. "Given that TSA now plans to meet the 9/11 Commission Act screening mandate as it applies to inbound air cargo by December 2011, it will be important for TSA to have complete and accurate data in hand to verify that this mandate is being met."

Auditors reaffirmed their concern that the Transportation Security Administration lacks means to scan air cargo stored inside pallets or containers.

"This is particularly important because, as we reported in June 2010, about 96 percent of inbound air cargo arrives on wide-body aircraft, and TSA has limited authority to oversee the screening activities of foreign governments or entities," the report's authors wrote.

Meanwhile, the agency's National Cargo Security Program has so far judged one foreign government's air logistics security requirements to "be commensurate with those of the United States," and the initiative in February was assessing protective measures in a number of additional countries, according to the document. "TSA officials stated that although the December 31, 2011, deadline to achieve 100 percent screening is independent of this effort, the agency plans to recognize as many commensurate programs as possible by the deadline," it said (U.S. Government Accountability Office report, March 9).

March 11, 2011
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The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is still contending with issues reported last June that could affect the agency's ability to meet an end-of-year deadline for screening all international cargo on passenger aircraft, congressional investigators said in a report made public on Wednesday (see GSN, Jan. 24).