Terrorism and Drug Trafficking: Responsibilities for Developing Explosives and Narcotics Detection Technologies

NSIAD-97-95 Published: Apr 15, 1997. Publicly Released: Apr 15, 1997.
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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how the U.S. government is organized to develop technologies for detecting explosives and narcotics, focusing on: (1) the roles, responsibilities, and authority of agencies that establish policy, provide funds or oversee funding requests, and develop explosives and narcotics detection technologies; (2) mechanisms used to coordinate the joint development of technologies; and (3) efforts to strengthen detection technology development.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Because no single agency in the executive branch has aggregated into a single report information on what is being done on the development of explosives and narcotics detection technology, Congress may wish to direct the Secretaries of Transportation and the Treasury and the Director, ONDCP, to jointly provide to appropriate congressional oversight committees an annual report on all of the government's efforts to develop and field explosives and narcotics detection technology.
Closed – Implemented
A House amendment was added to the Department of Defense Authorization Act, requiring the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to annually report on the development and deployment of narcotics detection technologies. Staff members for the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight and the House Committee on National Security worked to prepare the amendment. The staff member for the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight informed GAO that the amendment is based on the recommendation found in this report. Although the report and recommendation deal with explosives and narcotics detection technologies, the staff member said the amendment was tailored to deal only with narcotic detection technologies. The actual language of the amendment would be further refined during conference.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation In line with the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security's call for more clearly defining and coordinating the roles of law enforcement agencies in supporting the FAA, the Secretaries of Transportation and the Treasury should establish a memorandum of understanding on how FAA, Customs, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and other agencies are to work together in establishing standards, including the use of explosives detection systems, development of a joint-use strategy, resolution of liability concerns, development of profiling and targeting systems to identify potentially threatening passengers and cargo, and deployment of canine teams at airports.
Closed – Implemented
FAA and Customs established a Research and Development MOU with regard to participation in efforts in support of capabilities for response to terrorist activities, smuggling of contraband, and other areas of mutual interest. In addition, FAA and ATF, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, completed a MOU to conduct a joint pilot project to gather data on alternative method of training K-9 Explosives Detection Teams. The project is expected to be completed by early 1999.
Department of the Treasury In line with the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security's call for more clearly defining and coordinating the roles of law enforcement agencies in supporting the FAA, the Secretaries of Transportation and the Treasury should establish a memorandum of understanding on how FAA, Customs, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and other agencies are to work together in establishing standards, including the use of explosives detection systems, development of a joint-use strategy, resolution of liability concerns, development of profiling and targeting systems to identify potentially threatening passengers and cargo, and deployment of canine teams at airports.
Closed – Implemented
FAA and Customs established a Research and Development MOU with regard to participation in efforts in support of capabilities for response to terrorist activities, smuggling of contraband, and other areas of mutual interest. Regarding the other issues, FAA and Customs did not believe that an MOU was necessary. Instead, FAA and Customs are developing a Joint-Use Equipment Policy on sharing screening equipment with air carriers, airports, and other cargo authorities. Also, FAA and Customs worked on developing an automated targeting system for the targeting of high risk air cargo shipments that may pose a safety or security threat to the aircraft. In addition, FAA and ATF, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, completed a MOU to conduct a joint pilot project to gather data on alternative method of training K-9 Explosives Detection Teams. The project is expected to be completed by early 1999.

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