Aviation Security: Slow Progress in Addressing Long-Standing Screener Performance Problems
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC RESOURCES COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIV
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We appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss aviation security, in particular airport screeners. Securing an air transportation system the size of this nations-with hundreds of airports, thousands of aircraft, and tens of thousands of flights daily carrying millions of passengers and pieces of baggage-is a difficult task. Events over the past decade have shown that the threat of terrorism against the United States is an ever-present danger. Aviation is an attractive target for terrorists, and because the air transportation system is critical to the nations well-being, protecting it is an important national issue. A single lapse in aviation security can result in hundreds of deaths, destruction of equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and have immeasurable negative impacts on the economy and the publics confidence in air travel. A number of measures have been put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration FAA and the aviation industry to provide the security needed for the aviation system among the most important ones are the passenger screening checkpoints and the screeners who operate them. Concerns have been raised for many years by GAO and others about the effectiveness of screeners and the need to improve their performance. Two Presidential commissions-established after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 and the then-unexplained crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996-as well as numerous GAO and Department of Transportation Inspector General reports have highlighted problems with screening and the need for improvements. This situation still exists, Mr. Chairman, and as I will discuss, there are long-standing problems that affect screener performance.