Despite pessimistic predictions, TSA meets cargo-screening mandate

Monday, August 2, 2010

WASHINGTON—Although a Government Accountability Office report released in June found that the Transportation Security Administration would have difficulty meeting the 9/11 Act requirement of 100 percent screening of cargo on domestic passenger aircraft, the TSA on Aug. 2 announced the airline industry has met the Congressional mandate.

"TSA has taken another step forward in strengthening the security of air travel,” said TSA Administrator John Pistole, in a statement. “Screening all cargo on domestic passenger aircraft adds another layer to our already robust security system and ensures that TSA is doing everything possible to ensure the safety of air travel.”

The June GAO report found that one of the primary reasons the TSA was not expected to meet the mandate was because shipper participation in the Certified Cargo Screening Program had been lower than originally estimated. The CCSP, which allows cargo to be screened along the supply chain, was struggling due to the TSA’s lack of inspection resources, including funds and personnel.

However, the Aug. 2 TSA announcement reported that more than 900 facilities have become CCSP certified. This program has resulted in more than half of the nine million pounds of cargo loaded onboard passenger-carrying planes each day being prescreened.

The GAO report also found that the TSA lacked approved technology to screen pallets and containers. While the report found the TSA was working to complete qualification testing of several air cargo screening technologies, as of June, it had not yet met that goal.

The TSA maintains that its multi-layered approach to screening air cargo security is sufficient, and the agency deploys explosive detection canine teams as well as conducts covert tests and no-notice inspections of cargo operations to ensure proper screening.