06.02.15

SCHUMER: IN LIGHT OF DISTURBING TSA FAILURE TO DETECT EXPLOSIVES & WEAPONS AT AIRPORTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, SENATOR CALLS FOR TOP-TO-BOTTOM REVIEW OF EMPLOYEE TRAINING & EQUIPMENT TESTING BY DHS INSPECTOR GENERAL; CONTINUATION OF ‘RED TEAM’ TESTS AT ALL MAJOR AIRPORTS

Recent Media Reports Cited a New TSA “Red Team” Report Suggesting Agents Failed to Uncover 67 Out of 70 Threats at Airports Across the Country 

Schumer Urges DHS Inspector General to Fully Review Employee Training and Equipment Testing Procedures, To Ensure Any and All Issues are Addressed & To Continue “Red Team” Mock Tests At Airports Across the Country 

Schumer: When It Comes to Detecting & Closing Loopholes in Our Nation’s Security System, We Can Leave No Stone Unturned

Following the recent results of Red Team testing conducted at TSA screening locations airports, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General’s office to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) employee training procedures and their effectiveness. Specifically, Schumer is urging Inspector General John Roth to conduct a review of TSA employee training procedures as well as equipment testing procedures to determine how both of those systems can be improved.

Schumer noted that each day, the TSA screens approximately 1.8 million airlines passengers and 1.2 million checked bags. Schumer is also urging the Inspector General to conduct a review of the TSA’s efforts to identify new technology that might be more effective in screening for dangerous devices.  Lastly, Schumer is urging that the Inspector General continue to conduct Red Team tests at all major and mid-sized airports across the country.

“The fact that agents were able to sneak dangerous items—be it guns or mock explosives through airport security lines is not just a problem, it is a unacceptable vulnerability that needs to be immediately addressed. The Red Team’s success at breaching airport security has a lot of people seeing red and we need to get to the bottom of this – and fast – because ensuring the safety of the riding public is paramount,” said Senator Schumer.

Schumer continued, “When it comes to detecting and closing loopholes in our nation’s security system we can leave no stone unturned; now more than ever we must remain constantly vigilant. In light of the recent and highly concerning Red Team testing results, the Inspector General’s office should conduct a  top-to-bottom review of the TSA’s training procedures to identify holes in our airport security process  and make recommendations on how to plug them. Red Team testing must continue to be conducted at airports across the country to ensure our passengers, pilots and major cities are safe from evil-doers and terrorists.”

A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:

Dear Inspector General Roth:

Recent media reports about the preliminary results of Red Team testing conducted by your office at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening locations at airports are highly concerning. While I understand that your preliminary test results are classified, it is clear that significant issues continue to exist within our airport screening system. As you know, these challenges to our screening process put our nation at risk and could make us more susceptible to terrorist attacks. Your office can play a vital role in addressing these issues by not only conducting more Red Team testing, but also by conducting a number of top-to-bottom reviews of certain aspects of TSA procedure.

Specifically, in light of your preliminary Red Team test results, I urge you to conduct a top-to-bottom review of TSA’s employee training procedures. Since 2003, I raised significant questions about how TSA screeners are trained – both when they are hired, as well as continued training on new procedures and equipment.  At that time, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General determined that 22 of 25 question on the checked-baggage screeners final examination were the same questions that were on the practice quiz. Now, once again, concerns are being raised about security procedures and employee training. Therefore, I urge you to immediately commence a full and thorough review of TSA employee training procedures and their effectiveness. I encourage you to review both the training provided to new screeners, as well as any on-going training provided to existing officers. Furthermore, following this full review, I ask that you issue a set of specific recommendations for how training should be improved.

In addition, I also ask that you conduct a separate review of TSA equipment and specifically the system by which that equipment is tested to ensure it is functioning properly. I am aware of your May 6, 2015 report entitled: “The Transportation Security Administration Does Not Properly Manage Its Airport Screening Equipment Maintenance Program,” and while that report provides some critical information and recommendations – it is predominately focused on TSA’s oversight of its own maintenance program and not the effectiveness of routine equipment checks themselves. I ask that you take a more in-depth look at this issue, especially in light of your recent Red Team test results.

Each day, TSA screens about 1.8 million airline passengers and about 1.2 million checked bags and the effectiveness of individual pieces of equipment is critical to that process. Your report from earlier this year has already determined that TSA does not do an adequate job overseeing the maintenance of this equipment – an issue which TSA says they hope to address by Fall of 2015. That said, further investigation is needed, not only to ensure TSA implements your previous recommendations related to maintenance and efficacy but also to determine how existing equipment testing procedures can be improved and expanded.

On the technology front, I ask that you conduct a review of TSA’s efforts to identify new technologies that might be more effective in screening for dangerous devices and other threats. As you know, security technology is constantly evolving, as are terrorists’ and other dangerous actors’ efforts to bypass and defeat that technology. In order to ensure the safety of the traveling public, TSA must remain at least one step ahead of those efforts by pursuing and installing the most cutting-edge security systems. Therefore, I ask that you examine TSA’s actions on this subject and determine if TSA is adequately pursuing and implementing the latest and most effective technology.

Lastly, while I understand that the full report on your recent Red Team test results is not yet completed, I ask that – in light of these preliminary results – you continue to conduct Red Team tests at every major and mid-sized airport across the country. When it comes to detecting and closing loop-holes in our nation’s security system, we can leave no stone unturned. Therefore, I urge you to ensure that on-going and expanded Red Team testing remains a priority for your office.

I applaud the efforts that you have taken thus far to help improve the TSA screening procedures but more and sustained oversight and scrutiny is needed to help keep the traveling public safe, which is why it is vital that you immediately conduct the reviews laid out above, and provide recommendations for how the system can be improved. I appreciate your attention to this issue, should you need further information please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

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