Aviation Security: Progress Made to Set Up Program Using Private-Sector Airport Screeners, but More Work Remains Page: 2 of 55
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Highlights of GAO-06-166, a report to the
Chairman, Subcommittee on Aviation,
Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure, House of Representatives
Why GAO Did This Study
In November 2004, as required by
law, the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) began
allowing all commercial airports to
apply to use private screeners in
lieu of federal screeners as part of
its Screening Partnership Program
(SPP). GAO's prior work found that
airports and potential private
screening contractors had
concerns about the SPP, including
whether they would be liable in the
event of a terrorist attack and how
roles and responsibilities would be
divided among TSA airport staff
and private screening contractors.
This report addresses TSA's efforts
to (1) provide liability protection to
private screening contractors and
airports and address other SPP
stakeholder concerns; (2) achieve
cost-savings through the SPP; and
(3) establish performance goals
and measures for the SPP.
GAO is recommending that the
Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) direct TSA to document and
communicate roles and
responsibilities for managing
screener operations under the SPP,
and establish a time frame for
finalizing the SPP performance
measures and targets.
DHS reviewed a draft of this report
and generally concurred with
GAO's findings and
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Cathleen
Berrick at (202) 512-3404 or
Progress Made to Set Up Program Using
Private-Sector Airport Screeners, but
More Work Remains
What GAO Found
DHS and Congress have begun to address whether liability protection may
be offered to current and prospective private screening contractors and
airports using private screeners. DHS has already provided some liability
protection to three of the four current private screening contractors.
However, DHS officials stated that they cannot provide additional coverage,
which would render contractors virtually immune from all pertinent claims,
because TSA has not finalized performance standards that would allow DHS
to determine if contractors will perform as intended-a criterion that must
be satisfied before providing such additional protection. Recently enacted
legislation shields airports from virtually all liability resulting from the
negligence or wrongdoing committed by a private screening company or its
employees. TSA has also taken action to improve the screener hiring process
by granting contractors and TSA airport officials more input and flexibility in
the hiring process. Additionally, TSA has defined the roles and
responsibilities for SPP stakeholders-TSA airport staff and private
screening contractors, among others-in its August 2005 SPP transition plan.
However, the details in this plan have not been shared with private screening
contractors, and all four contractors we interviewed were unclear about TSA
staff roles and responsibilities at the airports they served.
TSA has stated that the SPP will operate at a cost that is competitive with
equivalent federal operations and will achieve cost-savings where possible.
Over the last 3 years, TSA has awarded cost-reimbursement contracts with
an award fee component for screening services at four of the five airports
currently using private screeners. The award fee is based, in part, on
contractor cost-savings. However, opportunities for TSA cost-savings may be
limited because under the cost-reimbursement contracts TSA bears most of
the cost risk-the risk of paying more than it expected. TSA plans to shift
more cost risk to contractors by competitively awarding fixed-price-award
fee contracts for screening services at the four smallest airports that will
participate in the SPP. TSA also plans to competitively award fixed-price
contracts for screening services at larger airports, but stated that they
cannot do so for up to 2 years-when officials believe that screening costs at
larger airports will be better known.
TSA has developed performance goals and has begun drafting related
measures and targets to assess the performance of private screening
contractors under the SPP in the areas of security, customer service, costs,
workforce management, and innovation. For example, one of the measures
would require contractors to ensure that new hires receive required training.
TSA's related target for this measure is that 100 percent of new hires will
complete required training. These same measures and targets will also be
used by DHS to assess whether to award full liability coverage under the
SAFETY Act. TSA officials stated that DHS must approve the draft
performance measures and targets before they can be finalized. As of
January 2006, DHS had not yet completed its review.
,United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Aviation Security: Progress Made to Set Up Program Using Private-Sector Airport Screeners, but More Work Remains, report, March 31, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc295707/m1/2/: accessed February 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.