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GAO Reminds TSA of Work Needed to Improve Pipeline Security, Commends TWIC Improvements

GAO’s recent update notes that 'TSA has not yet identified or developed additional data sources relevant to pipeline threats, vulnerability, and consequence as we recommended'. 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified 29 priority recommendations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in April 2020. Since then, DHS has implemented 12 of those recommendations. 

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented three recommendations that strengthened operations by better assessing the effectiveness of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program, reviewing the performance of its covert testing program, and developing a strategic workforce plan for its surface division. GAO said TSA’s actions “will improve TSA’s ability to assess security threats and better position the agency to effectively conduct pipeline security reviews”.

Of the outstanding recommendations, two pertain to TSA, and relate to pipeline security.

In December 2018, GAO recommended improvements in TSA’s methods for assessing pipeline security risks. The watchdog called for the TSA Administrator to direct the Security Policy and Industry Engagement’s Surface Division to identify or develop other data sources relevant to threat, vulnerability, and consequence consistent with the National Infrastructure Protection Plan and DHS critical infrastructure risk mitigation priorities and incorporate that data into the Pipeline Relative Risk Ranking Tool to assess relative risk of critical pipeline systems. The agency agreed with the recommendation and, as of March 2021, took steps to address it, such as meeting with other federal agencies and a contractor for input on how best to address the recommendation. However, GAO’s recent update notes that “TSA has not yet identified or developed additional data sources relevant to pipeline threats, vulnerability, and consequence as we recommended”. 

GAO also recommended that the TSA Administrator direct the Security Policy and Industry Engagement’s Surface Division to take steps to coordinate an independent, external peer review of its Pipeline Relative Risk Ranking Tool, after the Pipeline Security Branch completes enhancements to its risk assessment approach. TSA officials told GAO that, as of March 2021, they have not fully completed the enhancements and therefore have not taken steps toward a peer review. 

The government watchdog has also recently issued a report regarding the vulnerabilities of Keystone Pipeline.

Read the full report at GAO

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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