Transportation Security Administration and law enforcement agencies participate in Operation RAILSAFE at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station on Sept. 3, 2015. (Official DHS photo by Barry Bahler)

OIG: Air Marshals Unable to Demonstrate How Ground-Based Assignments Contribute to TSA

Despite dedicating approximately $272 million to ground-based activities, including Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) operations, the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) could not demonstrate how these activities contributed to TSA’s mission, according to the DHS Inspector General.

FAMS is intended to detect, deter, and defeat criminal, terrorist, and hostile activities that target our nation’s transportation systems. FAMS is primarily known for deploying federal air marshals on passenger flights; however, FAMS also conducts numerous ground-based activities in support of its overall mission.

During OIG’s assessment of FAMS’ contributions to TSA’s layered approach to security, they determined that FAMS lacked performance measures for the 24 strategic initiatives and most ground-based activities outlined in its strategic plan. Additionally, FAMS’ VIPR operations performance measures fail to determine the program’s effectiveness. FAMS could not provide a budget breakout by operational or divisional area. Without effective performance measures or detailed accounting of funds, FAMS cannot ensure it is maximizing its resources to address its highest risks and cannot measure the value of its investments in these ground-based activities.

The FAMS ground-based activities include:

  • Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) operations, in which VIPR teams collaborate with local law enforcement to augment security at transportation hubs through an increased visible deterrent force;
  • Insider Threat Program, which assesses insider risk threat for TSA, educates government personnel and industry partners about potential insider threat behaviors, investigates insider threats, and participates as an interagency working group member focusing on defensive counterintelligence;
  • Joint vulnerability assessments of airport infrastructure in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation;
  • Man-Portable Air Defense Systems Vulnerability Assessments to evaluate domestic and international man-portable air defense system vulnerabilities at airports; and TSA employment suitability and security clearance reviews.

TSA concurred with the two recommendations and described corrective action to implement them. OIG now considers both recommendations resolved and open.

Kalyna White is the STEM Ambassador to the Board of Directors for Women in Homeland Security. She is the founder of LABUkraine, a non-profit organization that builds computer labs for orphans in Ukraine. Since 2011 she has worked with Women in Homeland Security to encourage middle and high school student to pursue STEM careers by organizing and supporting field trips to STEM missions throughout the homeland security enterprise.

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