Aviation Security: Progress Made to Set Up Program Using Private-Sector Airport Screeners, but More Work Remains Page: 8 of 55
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Results in Brief
DHS and Congress have begun to address whether and how liability
protection may be offered to three of the four current private screening
contractors (the fourth has not applied for coverage) and airports, at
airports where private screeners are used. Specifically, DHS has provided
contractors with some of the liability protections available under the
SAFETY Act, including a limit on the damages a plaintiff may recover to
the extent of the contractor's insurance coverage.5 DHS SAFETY Act
officials stated that the department cannot provide the most extensive
level of protection available under the SAFETY Act, rendering contractors
virtually immune from all pertinent claims, because DHS cannot ascertain
whether contractors are performing as intended-a criteria that the
SAFETY Act requires before awarding such coverage. DHS officials stated
they could not determine this because---as we discuss below---TSA has not
yet finalized a standard of performance that would serve as the basis for
DHS's evaluation. While none of the private screening contractors we
interviewed stated that the lack of this additional coverage would preclude
their participation in the SPP, all four stated that some form of SAFETY
Act coverage was an essential supplement to their commercial liability
insurance policies. Regarding airport liability under the SPP, Congress has
granted airports legal protection from lawsuits. Specifically, under the
fiscal year 2006 DHS Appropriations Act, airport operators are shielded
from virtually all liability resulting from the negligence or wrongdoing
committed by a private screening company, its employees, or federal
screeners. On an additional issue of concern to stakeholders-the
screener hiring process-TSA has made an effort to improve this process
by granting contractors and FSDs more input and flexibility in the process,
such as providing two options for assessing screener candidates and
conducting more frequent screener assessments. Although TSA made
improvements to the hiring process, however, some stakeholders, as well
as FSDs at airports with federal screeners, remain concerned about the
timing of the assessments and the length of time the assessment process
takes. Stakeholders also expressed concern about the roles and
responsibilities of federal and private-sector staff at airports using private
screeners. TSA has since defined roles for FSDs, their staff, and private
screening contractors, among others, in its August 2005 SPP transition
plan, though TSA has not communicated to or shared the details of the
plan with private screening contractors. TSA headquarters officials stated
that they presumed that FSDs had communicated this information to
private screening contractors. Furthermore, TSA officials stated that they
communicated stakeholder roles in the SPP's June 2004 guidance.
5The SAFETY Act does not provide insurance; rather, sellers are required to purchase
liability insurance from the commercial market in an amount determined by DHS.
GAO-06-166 Aviation Security
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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.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc295707/m1/8/?rotate=270: accessed May 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.