Aviation Security:

Implementation of Recommendations Is Under Way, but Completion Will Take Several Years

RCED-98-102: Published: Apr 24, 1998. Publicly Released: May 4, 1998.

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Gerald Dillingham, Ph.D.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the tracking, monitoring, and coordinating activities undertaken by the agencies responsible for implementing recommendations made by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security and on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) progress in implementing eight of these recommendations, focusing on: (1) how federal agencies responsible for implementing aviation security recommendations track, monitor, and coordinate their activities; (2) the progress that FAA has made in implementing three of the Commission's aviation security recommendations that were scheduled to be completed in fiscal year (FY) 1997 and whether all implementation issues been resolved; and (3) the progress that FAA has made in implementing five recommendations that were both recommended by the Commission and mandated by Congress in 1996, and what major issues need to be addressed before they can be fully implemented.

GAO noted that: (1) FAA is responsible for implementing 21 of the Commission's 31 aviation security recommendations and most of the Reauthorization Act's aviation security mandates; (2) FAA developed a computerized system to track its progress in implementing each of the Commission's recommendations; (3) in addition, FAA's Office of the Chief Counsel established a separate computerized system for tracking the activities required of the agency under the Reauthorization Act; (4) eight other federal agencies, each of which is responsible for implementing the Commission's other aviation security recommendations, track progress through the operations of their program and budget offices; (5) although the Department of Transportation's Office of the Secretary provides quarterly reports to the National Security Council and sends an annual report to the Vice President, neither the Security Council nor any other agency is responsible for monitoring all of the agencies' implementation efforts or ensuring coordination between agencies; (6) without such oversight and coordination, issues that arise between agencies may go unresolved; (7) of the three recommendations GAO reviewed that FAA planned to complete in FY 1997, FAA has totally implemented only one; (8) this recommendation--to give properly cleared air carrier and airport security personnel access to classified information they need to know--was completed on schedule; (9) FAA has largely implemented the second recommendation--to establish procedures for identifying passengers before they board an aircraft--through a series of directives, one of which requires that passengers provide a valid form of identification at the check-in counter; (10) the third recommendation--to voluntarily establish a partnership between airport and air carrier officials and law enforcement agencies to implement security enhancements--has not been expanded to an additional 200 airports beyond the 41 established as a result of the Commission's initial report and is 15 months behind schedule; (11) FAA has made progress but encountered delays in implementing the five recommendations made by the Commission and the similar mandates contained in the Reauthorization Act; and (12) these delays have occurred, in large part, because the recommendations involve new technologies and, in some cases, require FAA to issue regulations.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Our report was issued over 2 years ago, and the Congress has not taken action to require FAA to provide an annual report on FAA's progress in implementing the aviation security recommendations made by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security and the aviation security mandates contained in the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996.

    Matter: To have relevant information for budgetary and programmatic oversight, Congress may wish to require the Secretary of Transportation to provide it with an annual report that combines both the federal agencies' progress in implementing the Commission's recommendations, as contained in the Secretary of Transportation's annual report, and FAA's progress in implementing the Reauthorization Act's aviation security mandates.


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