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Highlights

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is responsible for addressing the threat of nuclear smuggling. Radiation detection portal monitors are key elements in the nation's defenses against such threats. DHS has sponsored testing to develop new monitors, known as advanced spectroscopic portal (ASP) monitors, to replace radiation detection equipment being used at ports of entry. DNDO expects that ASPs may offer improvements over current-generation portal monitors, particularly the potential to identify as well as detect radioactive material and thereby to reduce both the risk of missed threats and the rate of innocent alarms, which DNDO considers to be key limitations of radiation detection equipment currently used by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at U.S. ports of entry. However, ASPs cost significantly more than current generation portal monitors. Due to concerns about ASPs' cost and performance, Congress has required that the Secretary of Homeland Security certify that ASPs provide a significant increase in operational effectiveness before obligating funds for full-scale ASP procurement. In May 2009, GAO issued a report (GAO-09-655) on the status of the ongoing ASP testing round. This testimony (1) discusses the principal findings and recommendations from GAO's May report on ASP testing and (2) updates those findings based on information from DNDO and CBP officials on the results of testing conducted since the report's issuance. DHS, DNDO, and CBP's oral comments on GAO's new findings were included as appropriate.

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