TSA reporting on security breaches has gaps, IG says

Only about four out of ten security breaches involving unauthorized access at airports are reported to the Transportation Security Administration’s central performance database, according to a new audit.

Charles Edwards, acting inspector general at the Homeland Security Department, testified on the gaps in reporting to the House Subcommittee on Transportation on May 16.

Edwards presented the results of his office’s recent investigations of security breaches involving unauthorized access at United States commercial airports. Those breaches are defined as incidents in which one or more individuals gains access to a protected-access area of the airport without being screened or inspected under the TSA’s standard operating procedures.

The TSA documents the breaches at each airport, and TSA staff is supposed to forward the documents to the agency’s central database, the Performance and Results Information System.

The audit showed inconsistent reporting, Walker told the subcommittee.

“We determined that only 42 percent of the security breaches we reviewed in individual airport files were reported in TSA’s official record, the Performance and Results Information System,” Walker said.

In addition, the TSA does not provide all necessary guidance and oversight to ensure that such breaches are consistently reported, tracked and corrected.

The audit also found that corrective action was being taken for only 53 percent of the breaches reviewed.

“We found that while TSA has several programs and initiatives that report and track identified security breaches, it does not have a comprehensive oversight program in place to gather information about all security breaches and, therefore, cannot use the information to monitor trends or make general improvements to security,” Walker said.

Walker also mentioned a related audit that found other gaps in security at the airports, including incomplete vetting and verifications of employee identification information. In one case, a TSA employee had three different places of birth recorded in his records for official ID badges at three airports—the United States, United Kingdom and Ukraine.

Walker declined to provide full details on the other gaps in employee identification security, saying it is sensitive security information. Details on the recommendations made to TSA also were not disclosed.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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