Aviation Security:

Posting Notices at Domestic Airports

RCED-97-88R: Published: Mar 25, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) security assessments at foreign and domestic airports, focusing on the: (1) bases for security assessments at foreign and domestic airports, and how they differ; and (2) views and opinions of the aviation community on a policy that would require FAA to post public notices in domestic airports about the security risks at other domestic airports.

GAO noted that: (1) in assessing the effectiveness of security at foreign airports, FAA applies security criteria that have been agreed upon by members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); (2) when the Secretary of Transportation finds that a foreign airport is not maintaining and carrying out effective security measures, the Secretary's authority is generally limited to having notices posted in domestic airports identifying the foreign airport and placing restrictions on U.S. carriers flying into and out of that airport; (3) conversely, FAA's criteria for overseeing security at domestic airports are based on the Federal Aviation Regulations, which generally include more detailed and enforceable standards than ICAO's; (4) noncompliance by an airport makes it subject to enforcement actions, such as civil penalties or a revocation of its certificate to operate; (5) representatives of government, the aviation industry, and consumer groups whom GAO surveyed were unanimous in opposing the establishment of a policy to post notices in domestic airports about security risks at other domestic airports; and (6) they frequently cited concerns about providing a blueprint for terrorists and being unable to measure and compare differences in the security risks at airports that varied in their threat and vulnerability situations.