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GAO Raps TSA Over Screener Training

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has not documented its process for monitoring whether its screeners are taking required training programs.

TSA screeners’ ability to perform their duties effectively is crucial to the security of the nation’s aviation system. TSA screens millions of airline passengers and their bags each day at commercial airports. To do so effectively, it requires its screener workforce to complete trainings on screening procedures and technologies.

TSA relies on an online database to monitor screener compliance in completing required training at the nation’s commercial airports. However, a GAO review found that TSA has not documented its process for monitoring screener training compliance, including for analyzing compliance data and reporting and addressing instances of noncompliance at airports. Moreover, while TSA monitors airport compliance rates in a given year, it does not analyze the data across fiscal years for potential trends in noncompliance by individual airports that may warrant corrective action at the headquarters level.

GAO found that in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, screeners at 435 commercial airports met TSA’s 90 percent target compliance rate, while in 2018, five airports had compliance rates well below this target, dropping 15 to 26 percentage points from the prior year. TSA told GAO they were unaware of this development, nor the causes for it. By documenting its screener training compliance monitoring process and monitoring screener training compliance data across fiscal years, TSA would be better positioned to ensure it is aware of potential noncompliance trends warranting corrective action at the headquarters level.

Since 2015, TSA has developed and updated screener training to address potential risks to commercial airports identified through covert testing and reports on emerging threats. From May 2015 through June 2019, TSA identified 62 potential risks that warranted review for a potential change in training. The GAO review found that TSA made training changes in response to 56 of the identified risks—affecting 40 different training courses. TSA also responded to risks by developing or updating job aids or briefings for screeners.

As a result of its review, GAO made two recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). With respect to the first recommendation that TSA document its process for monitoring screener training compliance, DHS stated that TSA will develop and maintain an internal control mechanism that will document responsibilities at the field and headquarters level for monitoring training completion compliance, and actions taken to address the results.

With respect to GAO’s second recommendation that TSA monitor for instances of screener noncompliance by individual commercial airports across fiscal years, DHS stated that TSA will begin monitoring trends in noncompliance at individual airports and for specific courses. Further, TSA’s  Training and Development department has developed an internal website to share its findings with it Security Operations unit through monthly compliance reports. The iShare training repository was created on December 30, 2019.

TSA expects activity to meet both recommendations to be complete by June 30 2020.

Download the full report at GAO

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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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