Aviation Security: TSA Has Strengthened Efforts to Plan for the Optimal Deployment of Checked Baggage Screening Systems, but Funding Uncertainties Remain Page: 4 of 30
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's hearing on the status
of the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) efforts to deploy
checked baggage screening technology to the nation's commercial
airports, and to discuss our work in this area. As you know, after the
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which highlighted the vulnerability
of U.S. aircraft to acts of terrorism, Congress passed and the President
signed into law, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA),
creating the TSA and mandating, among other things, that all checked
baggage at U.S. airports be screened using explosive detection systems by
December 31, 2002.' To meet this requirement, TSA deployed two types of
equipment to screen checked baggage for explosives: (1) explosives
detection systems (EDS) that use specialized X-rays to detect
characteristics of explosives that may be contained in baggage as it moves
along a conveyor belt and (2) explosive trace detection (ETD) systems,
whereby a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) swabs baggage and then
inserts the swab into the ETD machine, which in turn can detect chemical
residues that may indicate the presence of explosives within a bag.
In November 2002, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the
Homeland Security Act of 2002, which, in effect, extended the deadline for
screening all checked baggage for explosives until December 31, 2003, for
airports at which TSA was unable to meet the earlier deadline established
by ATSA.2 In March 2005, we reported that largely because of shortages of
equipment and insufficient time to modify airports to accommodate EDS
machines, TSA had been unable, at certain airports, to meet the 2002
congressionally established deadline to screen all checked baggage for
explosives using explosive detection systems.3 We also reported that at
most smaller airports, where EDS machines are not installed, TSA screens
solely with ETD machines. Further we reported that while TSA had made
progress in deploying EDS and ETD machines, it had not conducted a
systematic, prospective analysis of the optimal deployment of these
machines to achieve long-term savings and enhanced efficiencies and
1Aviation and Transportation Security Act, Pub. L. No. 107-71, 115 Stat. 597 (2001). See 49
U.S.C. 114(a), 44901(d)(1).
2Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135. See 49 U.S.C.
3GAO, Aviation Security: Systematic Planning Needed to Optimize the Deployment of
Checked Baggage Screening Systems, GAO-05-365 (Washington, D.C.: March 15, 2005).
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Aviation Security: TSA Has Strengthened Efforts to Plan for the Optimal Deployment of Checked Baggage Screening Systems, but Funding Uncertainties Remain, text, June 29, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc295118/m1/4/: accessed December 11, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.