The TSA hasn’t done enough to assess the vulnerability of
commercial U.S. airports and also needs to update its national strategy for
airport security, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government
Accountability Office (GAO).
The report noted that the agency completed a comprehensive
risk assessment of perimeter and access-control security in 2013, but said the
TSA has been remiss since then when it comes to assessments, even as security
breaches by airport workers have become a larger concern.
“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,” the GAO report
Among the insider breaches that have been discovered since
2013 was alleged gun smuggling by workers at Atlanta’s
The TSA sets security standards across the U.S. aviation
network, but airports are responsible for the day-to-day work of securing their
perimeters and other access points within their facilities.
This week’s GAO report comes as airport security has become
an area of increasing public concern, because of the much-discussed long
lines at airport checkpoints and because of the Brussels airport bombing in March.
The report is not a response to those events, however. It was
originally delivered to Congress in March, then altered with the removal of
sensitive security information prior to Tuesday’s public dissemination.
The GAO found that despite the completion of that risk
assessment in 2013, the TSA has not used the information it acquired during the
analysis to update the national strategy for airport security.
In addition, the TSA has not comprehensively assessed the
vulnerability of the 437 commercial airports nationwide. Instead, from 2009
through 2015 it conducted vulnerability assessments on just 81 airports.
“While conducting [vulnerability assessments] at all
commercial airports may not be feasible given budget and resource constraints,
other approaches, such as providing all commercial airports with a
self-vulnerability assessment tool, may allow TSA to assess vulnerability at
airports system-wide,” the GAO said.