Aviation Security:

TSA's Cost and Performance Study of Private-Sector Airport Screening

GAO-09-27R: Published: Jan 9, 2009. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 2009.

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This report formally responds to Congress' request that GAO review the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Screening Partnership Program (SPP). In accordance with the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, TSA created the SPP to allow commercial airports an opportunity to apply to TSA to use private sector screeners through qualified private-screening contractors approved by TSA. In February 2008, TSA issued a report on its study comparing the cost and performance of screening services at SPP and non-SPP airports. Our briefing addresses the following questions: (1) To what extent did the design of TSA's study of the cost and performance of passenger and checked baggage screening services at selected SPP and non-SPP airports affect the usefulness of the study? (2) To what extent has TSA taken actions to identify and eliminate any unnecessary overhead/supervisory redundancies at SPP airports between TSA and contractor personnel? (3) What factors do airport operators cite as having contributed to airports' decisions about whether to participate in the SPP? We are recommending that if TSA plans to rely on its comparison of costs and performance of SPP and non-SPP airports for future decision making, the agency update its study to address the limitations we identified, for example, by including various cost elements that were excluded and conducting statistical tests to determine the level of confidence in any observed differences in screening performance. TSA generally agreed with our findings and recommendation.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: If TSA plans to rely on its study's comparisons of cost and performance of SPP and non-SPP airports for making future management decisions regarding the SPP, the Assistant Secretary, TSA, should update the study to address the methodological limitations that we have identified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Transportation Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In accordance with the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) to allow commercial airports an opportunity to apply to TSA to use private sector screeners through qualified private-screening contractors. In February 2008, TSA issued a report on its study comparing the cost and performance of screening services at commercial airports using private-sector screeners under the SPP (SPP airports) and at airports using federal screeners (non-SPP airports). Our January 2009 report identified 10 limitations (7 for cost and 3 for performance) in TSA

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