Report on TSA security risks pressures House to act on FAA bill

Report on TSA security risks pressures House to act on FAA bill
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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) needs to update its formal process for addressing potential security risks and insider threats at airports, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).


The new report — released less than two weeks after an EgyptAir plane traveling from Paris to Cairo crashed, possibly due to a terrorist attack — could ratchet up pressure on lawmakers to pass Senate legislation that strengthens airport security.

The GAO report says the TSA should update its strategy for securing perimeters and security-restricted areas; update its risk assessment for airport security, and determine and implement a method for when the agency needs to conduct new risk assessments.

“TSA has made progress in assessing the threat, vulnerability, and consequence components of risk to airport perimeter and access control security,” the report says. “However, TSA has not updated this assessment to reflect changes in the airport security risk environment, such as TSA’s subsequent determination of risk from the insider threat — the potential of rogue aviation workers exploiting their credentials, access, and knowledge of security procedures throughout the airport for personal gain or to inflict damage.”

Insider threats have been linked to a number of high-profile security lapses, including a gun-smuggling operation uncovered in Atlanta and a downed Russian Metrojet airliner last year.

Lawmakers have addressed the issue with legislation, but the proposals have not become law yet.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism McConnell seeks to end feud with Trump MORE (R-S.D.), chairman of the Transportation Committee, is seizing on the latest GAO report to trumpet his Senate-passed reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which contains numerous provisions to beef up airport security.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on a Brussels airport and subway in March, lawmakers added language to the FAA bill that would enhance the vetting process for airport employees, increase the number of bomb-sniffing dogs and allow the TSA to donate unneeded security equipment to foreign airports with direct flights to the U.S.

“This new GAO report further underscores the need for the House to put the security focused aviation legislation passed by the Senate on the floor for a vote,” Thune said in a statement. “Critical safety reforms, in a bill that passed the Senate 95-3, shouldn’t face substantial delays over provisions that do not have enough support to become law this year.”

A house version of the bill, which does not have the same security provisions but contains a contentious proposal to privatize air traffic control, has been stalled since it advanced out of committee in February.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has not yet indicated whether he will try to move ahead with his own FAA bill, take up the Senate version or pass a short-term patch.

But Thune has been clear that he does not want to move ahead without the added provisions.

“It’s time for the House to act and avoid a short-term extension of aviation authorities that doesn’t address aviation safety and security,” Thune said.