Aviation Security:

FAA's Actions to Study Responsibilities and Funding for Airport Security and to Certify Screening Companies

RCED-99-53: Published: Feb 25, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 1999.

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John H. Anderson, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) efforts to implement the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996, focusing on: (1) the status of FAA's efforts to implement the requirement of section 301 of the act mandating that FAA conduct a study and report to Congress on whether aviation security responsibilities should be transferred from the airline carriers to airports or the federal government; (2) the status of FAA's efforts to implement section 302 mandating that FAA certify security screening companies and improve the training and testing of security screeners through the development of performance standards; and (3) issues that could impede FAA's implementation of section 302.

GAO noted that: (1) FAA issued the report required by section 301 of the Reauthorization Act on January 5 1999, about 2 years after the date mandated in the act; (2) the report concludes that there should be no change to the current system of shared aviation security responsibilities among FAA, the air carriers, and the airport operators or to the current funding sources for aviation security; (3) FAA's conclusions are based on the lack of any consensus in the civil aviation community for changes; (4) to comply with the requirements of section 302, FAA is developing a proposed regulation, which would require the certification of screening companies; (5) the proposed regulation would require screening companies and air carriers to comply with uniform performance standards for screeners and implement FAA-approved training and testing programs for screeners; (6) a critical step in the certification of screening companies is having a reliable and consistent way to measure the screening companies' performance; (7) in January 1999, FAA, after several delays, validated that its automated screener testing system is an accurate measurement of screener's performance; (8) over the next several months, FAA will gather additional data for use in developing performance standards for screeners; (9) the agency plans to issue a final regulation in late 2000; (10) the aviation industry generally agrees that national standards for security-screening operations are needed; (11) several issues could impede the issuance of the final regulation; and (12) for example, the completion of FAA's validation process had been delayed several times and any further delays with completing FAA's current efforts could affect the issuance of the final regulation.