Air Cargo Still Vulnerable, Says GAO Report
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), and Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) have released a report conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Washington, DC, on Federal efforts to secure U.S.-bound air cargo.
The GAO found that though there have been steps taken to improve security for domestic air cargo, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is still falling short. Three years ago, Congress mandated TSA to develop technology to better identify, track and screen air cargo and issue a final rule to enhance and improve the security of air cargo transported on all passenger and cargo aircraft.
TSA has yet to comply with this mandate. TSA has identified the primary threats but has failed to assess inbound air-cargo vulnerabilities.
Currently, TSA’s screening system only addresses domestic air cargo, leaving cargo entering the U.S. from abroad vulnerable. While it has issued the final rule and incorporated a number of provisions aimed at enhancing security of inbound air cargo, TSA continues to exempt some inbound cargo on passenger planes from inspection.
To address this vulnerability, GAO recommends the implementation of a systematic process to improve interagency communication to be used to strengthen TSA’s efforts in securing inbound cargo. In addition, TSA must analyze air cargo security practices used by industry stakeholders and foreign governments to determine their applicability to the United States.
“Ignoring a mandate from Congress and recommendations from the GAO on this critical security issue borders on the criminal,” says Thompson. “This Administration has left a gaping hole in our aviation security on which any terrorist can capitalize. This report further reinforces Congress’s intent in HR 1 to screen all air-cargo on passenger aircraft. It is critical that the Department of Homeland Security comply with all of the GAO’s recommendations. The flying public deserves no less.”
“The report is a wake-up call for the Bush Administration, which has failed to take the actions needed to close glaring cargo security loopholes,” says Rep. Markey. “GAO has confirmed the concerns we have repeatedly raised about dangerous cargo security gaps, including the fact that not all of the cargo packed on passenger planes and flown into our country is ever inspected for explosives or weapons of mass destruction before it is loaded onboard. Instead, the Bush Administration claims that rubber-stamped paperwork checks and random inspections that exempt many types of cargo are sufficient. The reality is that this kind of security doubletalk and half measures provide an open invitation to a terrorist or troubled individual intent on using a bomb in a cargo box to destroy an airplane in flight.”
“This GAO report reiterates the need for the 100 percent inspection of all cargo traveling on passenger planes,” says Rep. Christopher Shays. “I think we owe it to all families who have lost loved ones in acts of terrorism to make our airlines as safe as we can.”