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Bipartisan Bill Would Require Regular Maintenance of Airport Screening Technology

In response to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) audit that disclosed US airline passengers may 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,” Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice, ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Subcommittee, this week introduced bipartisan legislation which would require TSA to conduct regular preventive maintenance of airport screening technology.

DHS’s IG audit found TSA may have to beusing 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 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.”

Rice’s legislation, the Keeping Our Travelers Safe and Secure Act (HR 2770), would require the TSA administrator to develop and implement a preventive maintenance process for airport screening technology within 180 days. The process must include specific maintenance schedules, guidance for TSA personnel and contractors on how to conduct and document maintenance actions, mechanisms to insure compliance and penalties for noncompliance.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Rep. John Katko (R-NY), chairman of the Transportation Security Subcommittee; Rep. Thompson, and Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ).

“This bipartisan, common-sense legislation will take action to correct the significant vulnerabilities raised in the Inspector General’s report,” Rice said, noting that, “The security of our airports and the safety of travelers depend on sophisticated technology, and TSA has to be more aggressive and proactive in ensuring that this technology is regularly maintained and kept fully operational. At a time when people are rightfully concerned about TSA’s ability to detect dangerous items, we cannot afford the risk of having to rely on less effective screening measures. I’m confident that we can move quickly to bring this bill to a vote and pass it with the bipartisan support it deserves.”

 

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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