Dunno how I missed this one, but here's an article that appeared last week in USA Today about the General Inspector concluding that the Transportation Security Administration is failing to comply with cargo-screening mandates.
On Feb. 9, 2009, the TSA was required per a Congressional mandate to screen 50 percent of all cargo transported aboard passenger planes. The mandate will also require the TSA to screen 100 percent of all cargo transported on passenger planes by August 2010 (TSA officials said that "100 percent of all cargo transported on narrow-body passenger aircraft is already being screened." Read more about that here).
But according to this article, it ain't quite so:
Investigators were able to slip into supposedly secure warehouses where cargo is stored before being loaded onto airplanes and walk around unchallenged, the report says. Inspector General Richard Skinner also found some workers who handle the cargo had not received required background checks or training.
That's obviously not good. No one should be walking around in secure warehouses, but keep in mind that the estimated 12 million pounds of cargo loaded onto passenger planes every day is not actually screened by the TSA. Rather, the TSA is suppose to oversee entities such as airlines, freight handlers and manufacturers to ensure that cargo is properly secured. Once the cargo is screened, it is then suppose to be kept in a secured location until it's loaded onto the plane. But, the report says that the TSA "has not been effective" in making airlines and freight-handling companies comply with security rules for cargo.
In addition to not properly following procedures, apparently the TSA doesn't have enough personnel to handle the new mandates for cargo screening (AND the personnel they do have, are not properly trained).
So does this mean that the TSA is failing in a big way? I think undoubtedly, there's obvious improvements to be made. Even the TSA acting Administrator Gale Rossides says that agency leaders "are in agreement" that the problems should be addressed.
However, it's not like there's very strong leadership there at the TSA. I'm not saying Rossides is doing a bad job, but isn't it time there was actually someone in charge? I mean how long does it take to approve Erroll Southers' nomination? I've heard nothing but good things about the man. (Well, except for that one hitch about running an unauthorized background check on his ex-wife’s boyfriend. But, come on, that was in the 80s - I'm sure we can get over that.) Let's get it together, people. If you want something to get done, you gotta make sure the right people are in charge. You know better.