Aviation Security:

FAA's Assessments of Foreign Airports

RCED-89-45: Published: Dec 7, 1988. Publicly Released: Dec 28, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) evaluated the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) methodology for assessing security at foreign airports, focusing on those airports at high risk of terrorist and other criminal activities; and (2) provided information on how the Department of State used its Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program funds to enhance foreign airport security.

GAO found that: (1) FAA revised its foreign airport assessment guidance in 1987 to promote more comprehensive documentation of compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, an inspection team approach, and increased rapport between inspectors and foreign security officials; (2) FAA inspectors interviewed various foreign government, airport, and security officials, observed various security measures, and toured airport perimeters to assess airport security; (3) FAA inspectors did not test the operational effectiveness of security systems or observe and evaluate the security tests conducted by foreign airport officials; and (4) FAA conducted about 600 assessments of 200 airports during 1986 and 1987, concluded that most airports met ICAO standards, and suggested 100 security enhancements at 33 of the 54 highest-threat airports. GAO also found that: (1) through fiscal year 1987, State's Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program provided aviation security training to about 500 persons from 19 countries and provided aviation security equipment worth $2.8 million to 18 countries; and (2) State generally provided such training through requests from foreign governments, since FAA did not formally notify State of specifics on training needs identified during security assessments.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA revised its airport inspection procedures for security at foreign airports.

    Recommendation: To strengthen the foreign airport assessment program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to make some analysis of host country security systems testing as part of FAA foreign airport security assessments. Where practicable, this could include observing and evaluating host country tests of security systems to assess the operational effectiveness of various security measures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA is supplying more relevant and useful information on airport security to the State Department.

    Recommendation: To strengthen the foreign airport assessment program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to develop procedures for informing the Department of State of training needs, identified during foreign airport assessments, that could be met through State's Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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