Friday, December 31, 2010

70% Detection Failure Rate Being Reported is Based on Testing from 2004-2005

In the last week or so, several media outlets have referenced a “recent” report which cites a 70 percent failure rate for TSA to detect guns and knives passing through airport checkpoints. Some stories acknowledge the outdated covert testing report while not acknowledging the steps that have been taken since then to improve security. All are misleading.

It's important to note that while the report was issued in 2006 and appeared in the media in 2007, the tests it references were actually carried out in 2004-2005.

Let me point out a few things that aren't getting reported:

New Security Measures: Since 2004-2005, TSA has implemented new security measures and deployed enhanced technology, which reflect TSA's evolving approach to aviation security. Among TSA's many layers of security, both seen and unseen, these include the following:

  • Advanced technology X-ray systems, used to screen carry-on baggage, which feature multiple views of the item and enhanced detection capability. Currently, there are more than 940 AT X-ray units deployed to airports nationwide.
  • Advanced imaging technology, which safely screen passengers for both metallic and non-metallic threats, including weapons and explosives. There are nearly 500 units deployed to airports, and the use of the technology has led to the detection of more than 130 dangerous or illegal items in the last year.
  • Enhanced pat-downs, which were deployed to greatly increase TSA's detection capabilities for threats such as those seen last year on Christmas Day.
Limited Scope: Not only is the report nearly 5 years old, but the limited testing was conducted at only three out of 450 federalized U.S. airports.

Covert Testing Increases Security: TSA conducts covert testing in order to continually challenge our workforce and raise the bar to create stronger layers of security. As Administrator Pistole pointed out while testifying on the Hill recently, the results of covert tests informed TSA's decision to implement enhanced measures, such as new pat down procedures and the widespread deployment of advanced imaging technology.

Bottom line, TSA will continue to use every tool at our disposal - including new security measures based on the latest intelligence and covert testing results to keep the traveling public safe. Security is not static, but constantly evolves to meet the terrorist threats of tomorrow.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team