TSA screeners need faster Internet access

Government Accountability Office officials have warned the Transportation Security Administration that it must improve online training for airport screeners or risk not knowing if screeners are adequately prepared.

GAO's report, issued late last month, recommends that TSA officials develop and implement a plan to have high-speed Internet/intranet access at all airport training locations. The report also recommends that the agency develop more specific mechanisms to record screeners' progress in meeting training requirements.

GAO auditors found that TSA has improved training programs since September 2003, primarily by offering online, self-guided courses through the agency's Online Learning Center. The center is accessible via the Internet and TSA's intranet.

But the lack of high-speed connectivity prevented TSA employees at some airports from completing online refresher courses, the report states. GAO auditors said that as of October 2004, nearly 50 percent of screeners lacked high-speed connections to the learning center.

The report criticizes TSA for not yet writing a plan to implement high-speed Internet access in airport training facilities.

The agency lacks the means to measure whether screeners have completed their required training, whether they have undergone any necessary remedial training or who is responsible for ensuring that screeners have enough training, the report states.

TSA officials are working to fix the problems, according to the report. They agree with GAO's findings and are already taking steps to address the issues, TSA spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan said.

Agency officials asked the Bush administration to include $174 million in the fiscal 2006 budget request to pay for implementing more high-speed Internet connections at airports, O'Sullivan said. By summer, she added, TSA will enhance the center's reporting tools to better measure and correlate training performance data.

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