(The following article is based on a report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police.)
Within the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration's mission is to protect the nation's transportation network.
Since its inception in 2001, TSA has developed and implemented a variety of programs and procedures to secure commercial aviation. Recently, the Government Accountability Office examined the progress DHS and TSA have made in securing the nation's commercial aviation system, and challenges that have impeded the Department's efforts to implement its mission and management functions.
In August 2007, GAO reported that DHS had made moderate progress in securing the commercial aviation system, but that more work remains. Specifically, DHS generally achieved 17 of the 24 performance expectations that GAO identified in the area of aviation security but had generally not achieved 7 of them.
DHS and TSA have made progress in many areas related to securing commercial aviation. For example, to meet congressional mandates to screen airline passengers and 100 percent of checked baggage, TSA initially hired and deployed a federal workforce of over 50,000 passenger and checked baggage screeners and installed equipment at the nation's more than 400 commercial airports to provide the capability to screen all checked baggage using explosive detection systems.
TSA has since turned its attention to, among other things, strengthening passenger prescreening; more efficiently allocating, deploying, and managing the transportation security officer (TSO) -- formerly known as screener -- workforce; strengthening screening procedures; developing and deploying more effective and efficient screening technologies; and improving domestic air cargo security.
While these efforts have helped strengthen the security of the commercial aviation system, DHS and TSA still face a number of key challenges in further securing this system.
For example, TSA has faced difficulties in developing and implementing its advanced passenger prescreening system, known as Secure Flight, and has not yet completed development efforts.
In addition, DHS's efforts to enhance perimeter security at airports may not be sufficient to provide for effective security. TSA has also initiated efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of security-related technologies, such as biometric identification systems, but has not developed a plan for implementing new technologies to meet the security needs of individual airports.
TSA has also not yet effectively deployed checkpoint technologies to address key existing vulnerabilities, and has not yet developed and implemented technologies needed to screen air cargo. GAO also reported that a number of issues have impeded DHS's efforts in implementing its mission and management functions, including not always implementing effective strategic planning or fully adopting and applying a risk management approach with respect to commercial aviation security.
Further, while TSA has initiated efforts to develop security standards for surface transportation modes, these efforts have been limited to passenger and freight rail, and have not addressed commercial vehicles or highway infrastructure, including bridges and tunnels.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.