To enhance aviation security, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) developed a program--known as Secure Flight--to assume from air carriers the function of matching passenger information against terrorist watch-list records. In accordance with a mandate in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2008, GAO's objective was to assess the extent to which TSA met the requirements of 10 statutory conditions related to the development of the Secure Flight program. GAO is required to review the program until all 10 conditions are met. In September 2008, DHS certified that it had satisfied all 10 conditions. To address this objective, GAO (1) identified key activities related to each of the 10 conditions; (2) identified federal guidance and best practices that are relevant to successfully meeting each condition; (3) analyzed whether TSA had demonstrated, through program documentation and oral explanation, that the guidance was followed and best practices were met; and (4) assessed the risks associated with not fully following applicable guidance and meeting best practices.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Homeland Security||To mitigate future risks of performance shortfalls and strengthen management of the Secure Flight program moving forward, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration to periodically assess the performance of the Secure Flight system's matching capabilities and results to determine whether the system is accurately matching watch-listed individuals while minimizing the number of false positives--consistent with the goals of the program; document how this assessment will be conducted and how its results will be measured; and use these results to determine whether the system settings should be modified.|
|Department of Homeland Security||To ensure that passenger prescreening is working as intended, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration to conduct outreach to air carriers--particularly carriers in states with unique transportation needs--to determine whether modifications to the CAPPS rules and related security amendment have achieved their intended effect.|