Aviation Security: Development of New Security Technology Has Not Met Expectations, Report to Congressional Requesters   [open pdf - 5MB]

Although the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990, passed in the wake of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, set goals for deploying new technology to detect explosives, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made little progress toward introducing new detection systems into everyday use. Several devices show promise, but technical problems are hampering their development and approval. FAA estimates that it could take as long as five years to approve new devices for airline use. Similarly, FAA's efforts to enhance airline survivability are promising but years from completion. GAO identified several weaknesses in FAA's security research program. For example, FAA does not plan to test new explosive detection systems at airports during the certification process. Further, FAA does not (1) do software reviews to evaluate system designs, (2) emphasize integrating different technologies into total systems, and (3) give enough attention to human factors. Purchasing the new security equipment will also place demands on airlines throughout the next decade. Yet FAA lacks a strategy to guide its and the airlines' efforts to introduce this equipment. If FAA expeditiously develops a strategy, the airlines will be in a better position to plan and budget for future security acquisitions. In addition, Congress is considering clarifying the availability of Airport Improvement Program grants to buy explosive detection systems. Several issues need to be resolved before such funds can be used for that purpose.

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General Accounting Office: http://www.gao.gov
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