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TSA Has Taken Steps to Improve Security Effectiveness, GAO Says

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TSA has followed guidance issued in 2014

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has mixed feelings about the current performance of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its screening practices at airports nationwide.

The TSA is responsible for carrying out the screening process and ensuring the security of civil aviation in the U.S. In 2015, this amounted to screening 708 million passengers at more than 450 U.S airports. According to a recent report issued by the GAO, the TSA has taken steps to improve the effectiveness of certain screening procedures in recent years, but there is definite room to grow.

A recent, key change in procedure dealt with the TSA’s Pre-Check Risk Assessment program. A 2015 change in the Pre-Check algorithm that is used to assign passenger security scores (and identify low risk passengers), along with decreasing the use of Managed Inclusion programs, led to a 20 percent decrease in the number of individuals receiving expedited screening.

The practice of “managed inclusion” is when security agents selectively allow non-Pre-Check travelers to use Pre-Check security lanes in an effort to ease congestion at security checkpoints. The TSA decided to limit the use of Managed Inclusion to airports that employ canine teams to detect explosives.

More screener oversight needed

Despite the improvements made in screening effectiveness, the GAO noted in its report that evaluations of Transportation Security Officer (TSO) performance is “constrained by incomplete and unreliable testing data and a lack of data analysis.”

Proper TSO evaluations are important in maintaining a high overall level of security in that the evaluations can help ensure that officers are consistently demonstrating proficiency during live screening operations and adhering to appropriate screening procedures.

Recommended: More data and tracking

The GAO offered up recommendations to the TSA along with its analysis. Recommendations included ensuring that airports submit complete TSO performance data, taking steps to make certain that the data are analyzed on a nationwide basis, and ensuring that the covert testing implementations are tracked.

Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.

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