Trans-Alaska Pipeline:

Ensuring the Pipeline's Security

RCED-92-58BR: Published: Nov 27, 1991. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the security of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), focusing on the: (1) adequacy of federal and state agencies' efforts to assess TAPS vulnerability to terrorist disruption; and (2) actions the firm responsible for conducting pipeline operations has taken to protect the pipeline.

GAO found that: (1) although there were no federal requirements for TAPS or any other oil pipeline to have vulnerability assessments, both the Department of Energy (DOE) and the firm conducted such assessments for TAPS; (2) one vulnerability assessment study tested security equipment in an arctic environment and identified vulnerable points along the pipeline system; (3) because of increasing worldwide terrorism, DOE initiated a TAPS vulnerability assessment and found that TAPS security was a model for other pipelines to follow; (4) there have been security analyses at specific points along the pipeline, including a site-specific study, exercises to test security, and a survey completed during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm to familiarize law enforcement and military personnel with protecting TAPS; (5) the first line of defense for protecting TAPS is the firm, which initiates actions for further assistance when needed; (6) Alaska and the federal government have plans to assist in protecting TAPS under certain conditions if the firm is unable to cope with a given situation; and (7) the firm has an experienced and trained security staff and coordinates effectively with federal and state military and law enforcement agencies, although it would be impossible to completely secure 800 miles of pipeline and related facilities from a determined attack by trained terrorists.

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