Aviation Security:

Urgent Issues Need to Be Addressed

T-RCED/NSIAD-96-251: Published: Sep 11, 1996. Publicly Released: Sep 11, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed federal efforts to protect civil aviation from terrorist acts. GAO noted that: (1) the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has increased aviation security procedures, but domestic and international aviation remain seriously vulnerable because nearly every major aspect of the aviation security system has weaknesses that terrorists could exploit; (2) since fiscal year 1991, FAA has invested over $153 million to develop explosives detection devices and a number of these devices are commercially available for checked and carry-on baggage, but all of these devices have some limitations; (3) there are also passenger-screening devices, but health, legal, operational, privacy and convenience concerns have been raised about these devices; (4) FAA is conducting research on blast-resistant cargo containers that could reduce the need for explosives detection devices; (5) the Presidential Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism has recommended government purchase of some detectors for airport use, using bomb-sniffing dogs, matching passengers with their baggage, and profiling passengers; (6) Congress, the Administration, and the aviation industry need to agree and take action on the steps needed to counter terrorist threats and who will be responsible for funding new security initiatives; and (7) the government has three initiatives underway to address aviation security improvements.