With repeated reports of detection failures during airport screening checkpoints, aviation security professionals discussed growing concerns during the AAAE/TSA/DHS Annual Aviation Security Summit in Washington DC in December 2017. The fact is that screening detection will continue to improve but likely will still not get a passing grade.
The bad news is, a recent DHS Inspector General’s report put the latest screener testing results at about 70% – as in, the screeners were missing 70% of the test items Red Team members attempted to get by them. The good news is this result is an improvement from nearly four years ago, when the failure rate was over 90%. (For more on the Red Team, read my article “DHS Exposes Weaknesses in TSA Security.”) So, while the screeners are still missing the realistic type weapons that the experts are sneaking through the system, and have a failing grade of 30/100, at least there is improvement. Keep in mind that red team personnel know the vulnerabilities and limitations of the systems and the processes, so I wouldn’t expect screeners to detect everything they try to sneak through, but I would prefer to see a 70% detection rate, rather than a 70% failure rate.
One of TSA’s solutions to the problem is a continuation on providing higher levels of training to their Transportation Security Officer personnel, something that started under former Administrator Peter Neffenger’s watch. I believe what is needed is an even higher level of training on the evolving threats and training TSOs to be more than just “screeners.” They should be security professionals with a solid knowledge of how all the layers work, not just what’s within their limited perspective. Combined with better technology, detection rates will improve along with passenger throughout and a better experience for the air traveler.
For more on layered security systems and other practical aviation security protocols, purchase your copy of my book, “Practical Aviation Security,” now in it’s third edition.