TSA Acquisitions:

Opportunities Exist to Enhance Efficiency of Screening Technology Test and Evaluation

GAO-16-322T: Published: Jan 7, 2016. Publicly Released: Jan 7, 2016.

Additional Materials:


Michele Mackin
(202) 512-4841


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

What GAO Found

The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) test and evaluation process has enabled TSA and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to identify passenger and baggage screening technologies that will meet mission needs, but technology failures during testing have contributed to inefficiencies in the acquisition process. Consistent with departmental guidance and acquisition best practices, TSA's test and evaluation process provides information regarding the ability of technologies to meet mission needs before agency officials decide whether to begin full production, saving the agency from investing in potentially expensive yet ineffective equipment. From June 2010 to July 2015, half of the 22 systems that TSA tested successfully completed qualification and operational testing. TSA procured all but 1 of the 11 successful systems. Technologies that entered the test and evaluation process and were immature required significant modifications and retesting.

Number of Passenger and Baggage Screening Systems (Including Upgrades) Completing TSA Test and Evaluation Phases from June 2010 to July 2015

Number of Passenger and Baggage Screening Systems (Including Upgrades) Completing TSA Test and Evaluation Phases from June 2010 to July 2015

TSA has taken steps to improve its test and evaluation process by helping ensure technologies are mature before entering testing, but it is too soon to tell whether these actions will address all of the factors that contribute to acquisition inefficiencies. A key action TSA is taking involves developing a third party testing strategy, through which a third party will help ensure systems are mature prior to entering TSA's test and evaluation process. TSA plans to implement its approach in 2016, but it has yet to finalize key aspects of the strategy. For example, TSA has not identified whether there are a sufficient number of eligible third party testers or established a mechanism to oversee that testing. Without a finalized strategy, TSA risks unintended consequences, such as increasing acquisition costs. Further, TSA has not conducted or documented a comprehensive assessment of testing data and thus may be missing opportunities to identify additional areas for improvements to its acquisition process. An assessment of this data, such as costs incurred, could help TSA guide future reforms to the test and evaluation process to help ensure they address factors contributing to any acquisition inefficiencies.

Why GAO Did This Study

This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's December 2015 report, entitled TSA Acquisitions: Further Actions Needed to Improve Efficiency of Screening Technology Test and Evaluation, GAO-16-117.

For more information, contact Michele Mackin at (202) 512-4841 or mackinm@gao.gov.

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