TSA defends airport bomb-detection procedures as 'most stringent' in world

The Transportation Security Administration defended its explosive-detection equipment and procedures Tuesday afternoon, saying they are the “most stringent” in the world. 

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) circulated a report showing the agency was behind on implementing new standards for bomb detection adopted in 2010 because it did not start using equipment that met 2005 rules until 2009. But TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball said the agency was confident in the effectiveness of its bomb-detection procedures.

“The standard currently in use by the majority of Explosive Detection System units in U.S. airports provides the most stringent level of checked baggage security in the world,” Kimball said in a statement provided to The Hill. 

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 “All new EDS units purchased by TSA and technologies currently undergoing lab testing allow TSA to upgrade the software to meet revised standards without replacing the physical equipment,” he continued. “New EDS units purchased by TSA and technologies undergoing lab testing meet the 2010 standard.” 

Kimball said President Obama's 2012 budget proposal included $273 million “to support the recapitalization and deployment of EDS for checked baggage to efficiently screen baggage for explosives, reducing the number of re-scans and physical bag searches.”

But the budget passed this spring by the House cut about that amount from TSA spending. The House also capped the number of screeners the TSA could have at 46,000.

Mica disagreed that the system was up to par, saying earlier Tuesday in a statement released by his office that “not only has TSA failed to complete implementation of the 2005 standards, now the 2010 standards will be delayed, leaving the whole process in disarray.”

The House Homeland Security subcommittee on Transportation Security on Tuesday debated TSA's funding for 2012 and 2013.