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TSA Fails to Properly Manage Airport Screening Equipment Maintenance Program

US airline passengers appear to have been in potential jeopardy to terrorist attacks for nearly a decade “because the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has not properly been managing the maintenance of its airport screening equipment,” said a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) audit report.

Consequently, the IG stated, TSA may have to be using other screening measures that “may be less effective at detecting dangerous items.”

The screening equipment the IG investigated proper maintenance of included Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) machines, Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines, Bottled Liquid Scanners, X-ray machines and walkthrough metal detectors. The IG also reviewed maintenance data for Explosives Detection System (EDS) and EDT checked baggage screening equipment.

The IG reported that “TSA has not issued adequate policies and procedures to airports for carrying out equipment maintenance-related responsibilities.”

And because TSA hasn’t been adequately overseeing its equipment maintenance, “it cannot be assured that routine preventative maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use,” the IG said.

“Without diligent oversight, including implementing adequate policies and procedures and ensuring it has complete, accurate and timely maintenance data for thousands of screening equipment units,” the IG’s audit report said, “TSA risks” shortening the life span of equipment and incurring unnecessary costs to replace the equipment.

And “if the equipment is not fully operational, TSA may have to use other screening measures, which could result in longer wait times and delays in passenger and baggage screening,” the IG said.

But “more importantly, the IG emphasized, “our prior work on airport passenger and baggage screening demonstrated that these other measures may be less effective” in detecting concealed weapons and other dangerous items.

“Correctly maintaining sensitive screening equipment at our nation’s airports is critical to both protecting the flying public and preserving this taxpayer-funded investment," Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, responded to the audit. "With hundreds of millions spent on this critical function every year, TSA must ensure maintenance contractors are in compliance and do the work they are paid for. I hope TSA quickly implements the Inspector General’s recommendations to ensure security gaps, cost overruns and longer wait times are not needlessly created.”

TSA relies on its passenger and baggage screening equipment to prevent dangerous items from being carried onboard aircraft. The agency screens nearly 2 million passengers and more than 1 million checked bags at roughly 450 domestic airports across the nation.

TSA’s four maintenance contracts that are supposed to cover both preventative and corrective maintenance forout of warranty equipment the IG said are valued at about $1.2 billion.

The Inspector General reported that there were two levels of preventative maintenance contracts in place at the time of our review – Level I maintenance performed by local TSA personnel daily or weekly which does not require opening a machine to inspect mechanical operations; and Level II maintenance primarily performed monthly, quarterly or annually by trained maintenance technicians. As part of Level II maintenance, contractors are supposed to verify TSA personnel’s’ performance of Level I preventative maintenance.

“Other than a calibration test for EDT machines, TSA has not provided sufficient guidance to local TSA personnel on procedures to properly document, track and maintain Level I preventative maintenance actions,” the IG’s audit found, noting, “For the nine airports we reviewed, we noted that some maintenance logs contained incomplete or inconsistent data.”

Continuing, the IG determined “TSA personnel at seven of the nine airports we reviewed could not provide any documentary evidence that contractors were verifying Level I maintenance.”

“Without accurate and complete maintenance logs for all equipment, TSA cannot ensure that airport personnel are performing Level I preventative maintenance,” the IG said, adding, “TSA also cannot be certain contractors are complying with the requirement to verify performance of Level I preventative maintenance actions.”

The IG also pointed out that in July 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) audited TSA’s efforts to control the costs of EDS and ETD machines which included examining the extent of TSA’s oversight or maintenance contractors’ performance for EDS and ETD machines.

“GAO concluded that TSA has policies to monitor contracts, but did not have policies and procedures requiring documentation for the review of contractor-submitted performance data,” the IG said. “GAO also reported that TSA did not have reasonable assurance that contractors were performing as required and that full payment was justified. According to GAO, because TSA agreed with and implemented the recommendations, it closed them.”

But neither GAO nor TSA could provide documentation and details about the actions that were taken.

DHS’s Inspector General recommended TSA develop, implement and enforce policies and procedures to ensure its screening equipment is maintained as required and is fully operational while in service.

In response to the IG’s findings and recommendations, TSA agreed that when implemented, three of the IG’s recommendations should strengthen oversight of its screening equipment maintenance program and ensure equipment is properly maintained and fully operational when in service.

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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