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Transportation Security: Status of GAO Recommendations on TSA's Security-Related Technology Acquisitions

GAO-16-176 Published: Feb 17, 2016. Publicly Released: Feb 17, 2016.
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What GAO Found

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented 51 of the 58 recommendations GAO made from October 1, 2003, through July 31, 2015, to improve TSA's acquisition of security-related technology. GAO's recommendations generally directed TSA to develop a plan; conduct an analysis; or implement a program, policy, or procedure. For example, in March 2014, GAO recommended that TSA establish protocols to capture operational data on secondary screening of passengers at the checkpoint, to help ensure screening officers' performance.

Status of GAO Recommendations Relating to Security-Related Technology, Fiscal Year 2003 through July 2015

Status of GAO Recommendations Relating to Security-Related Technology, Fiscal Year 2003 through July 2015

TSA has not implemented 7 of the 58 recommendations. GAO closed 4 of the 7 recommendations because TSA stated that it would not take action or GAO determined that it was unlikely that TSA would take action. These recommendations were related to establishing the effectiveness of canine screening, conducting technical assessments to strengthen airport perimeter security and Advanced Imaging Technology. The remaining 3 open recommendations are focused on improving Advanced Imaging Technology operations. GAO continues to believe these recommendations are valid and should be fully addressed.

Since fiscal year 2003, GAO has identified approximately $1.7 billion in financial benefits, largely representing funds that TSA used to support other programs and activities, based on implementation of GAO's recommendations as well as findings from related GAO reports and testimonies on security-related technology acquisitions. GAO has also documented additional benefits, including programmatic and process improvements to TSA's programs, such as improvements to TSA's Electronic Baggage Screening Program's cost estimating processes.

Why GAO Did This Study

Within DHS, TSA is the federal agency responsible for securing domestic transportation systems. The Transportation Security Acquisition Reform Act (TSARA) contains a provision for GAO to submit a report to Congress containing an assessment of TSA's implementation of GAO recommendations regarding the acquisition of security-related technology. This report addresses (1) the status of TSA's implementation of relevant GAO recommendations since 2003 and the characteristics of those recommendations and (2) benefits realized by TSA in implementing those recommendations.

GAO determined the number and status of recommendations made to TSA from October 1, 2003, after TSA had become a part of the newly created DHS, through July 31, 2015, as well as the benefits derived from the recommendations TSA implemented, using an internal database that GAO maintains on the status of recommendations it makes. GAO specifically identified recommendations related to the acquisition of technology that helps TSA prevent or defend against threats to domestic transportation systems. TSA concurred with GAO's list of recommendations. TSA also provided technical comments on a draft of this report which GAO incorporated as appropriate. DHS did not provide formal comments.

For more information, contact Jennifer Grover at (202) 512-7141 or

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Federal acquisitionsHomeland securityInternal controlsTechnologyTransportationTransportation safetyTransportation securityTransportation systems