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Testimony of John W. Halinski, Assistant Administrator for Global Strategies, Transportation Security Administration before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation Security on "Strengthening International Cooperation on Aviation Security"

Release Date: 
April 6, 2011

Cannon House Office Building

Good morning Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee.  Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the ongoing efforts of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to improve international aviation security.

TSA’s mission is to prevent terrorist attacks and reduce the vulnerability of the nation’s transportation systems to terrorism.  In meeting this mission, TSA’s goal at all times is to maximize transportation protection and security in response to the evolving terrorist threat while protecting passengers’ privacy and facilitating the flow of legal commerce.  Balancing these elements is a difficult and demanding challenge particularly in a vast and complex international air transport system that involves a network of thousands of operations linked across the globe.  Within TSA, the Office of Global Strategies (OGS) works proactively with a variety of international and domestic partners on overseas transportation operations that affect the United States, including major transnational aviation-related organizations and regional bodies dealing with transportation security.  TSA also participates in numerous bilateral cooperative efforts with various countries, and interagency efforts dealing with transportation security.

TSA’s Global Strategy

TSA’s global mission, executed by OGS, is to develop and promote the implementation of enhanced global transportation security processes and structures worldwide, while ensuring compliance with international and TSA security standards.  This mission focuses on three areas: compliance, outreach and engagement, and capacity development. Our mission is accomplished by using a risk-based approach that evaluates the factors of threat, vulnerability, and consequence when determining our efforts to enhance global aviation security across the three mission areas. 

To fulfill the mission area of compliance, TSA conducts security assessments of all international airports from which a United States air carrier operates, from which a foreign air carrier serves the United States, those that pose a high risk to international air travel, and others as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.  These assessments are conducted by OGS International Transportation Security Specialists, who operate out of five Regional Operations Centers located in Frankfurt, Singapore, Los Angeles, Miami and Dallas.  Through these assessments, TSA evaluates the security posture of the airport in accordance with security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with commercial aviation.  The frequency of each airport assessment is based on risk computations of current threat, documented vulnerabilities, and flight data at these airports.   

TSA OGS teams also conduct annual inspections of U.S. air carriers to ensure that they operate in compliance with TSA regulations identified in the Aircraft Operator Standard Security Program and supporting Security Directives.  Likewise, we inspect foreign air carriers that fly to the United States to ensure they operate in compliance with TSA’s Model Security Program and supporting Emergency Amendments.  These inspections enable risks to the international air transport system to be identified, followed by mitigation through outreach/engagement and capacity development.  

Extensive global outreach and engagement is conducted by working at global, regional and bilateral levels to encourage international counterparts to recognize that the threat to the aviation sector remains high and therefore mitigation measures must be developed and implemented to counter existing threats as well as new and emerging threats as they arise. At the global level, TSA OGS works with ICAO to establish and enhance baseline international standards in place for aviation security.  At the regional and bilateral level, TSA Representatives are stationed in key locations worldwide to work with foreign governments in developing effective and complementary transportation security measures and to support immediate implementation of enhanced security measures as necessary.  

TSA also conducts outreach activities to engage the aviation industry, particularly air carriers and aviation stakeholders such as International Air Transport Association (IATA), Air Transport Association, American Association of Airport Executives, and Airports Council International.  Our International Industry Representatives work closely with industry to ensure that necessary requirements for foreign air carriers are implemented and to alert airlines to new threats, while our Principal Security Specialists provide the same coordination and oversight with U.S. carriers. 

TSA further mitigates risk by helping partner nations build sustainable aviation security practices through capacity development.  An important part of this effort is aviation security training and technical assistance to meet needs identified by the Departments of Homeland Security, State and Transportation, ICAO and civil aviation authorities of foreign governments. TSA provides aviation security training to foreign partners through a variety of courses in screener supervisor skills, preventative security measures, crisis management, basic security training, cargo security inspections, train the trainer, and others.

In addition, TSA’s Aviation Security Sustainable International Standards Team (ASSIST) program provides comprehensive technical assistance to countries with demonstrated difficulty in satisfying the security Standards and appropriate Recommended Practices established by ICAO.  The ASSIST program addresses the self-identified civil aviation security needs of the host nation by aiding the establishment of sustainable institutions and practices through aviation security training, technical assistance and overall security assessments.

Recent Activities

TSA OGS is continuously working to enhance global aviation security across our three mission areas.  In the area of compliance, our inspectors have conducted 185 airport assessments, 1,149 foreign air carrier station assessments and 290 cargo station assessments over the last 18 months. We have also completed 154 visits to foreign repair stations in advance of the issuance of a final rule governing security at such repair stations.  When combining all engagement performed over the last year and a half, we have conducted outreach with over 150 foreign governments. 

To further aid TSA’s international active engagement efforts, we work closely with our multilateral, regional and industry partners, including IATA, ICAO, the European Commission, the European Civil Aviation Commission, the Latin American Civil Aviation Commission, and the International Working Group on Land Transport Security.  In support of an initiative announced by Secretary Janet Napolitano early this year, Administrator John Pistole engaged with international counterparts in Switzerland and Belgium this past March to discuss efforts to secure global supply chains with international cargo organizations and government officials. During the visit, Administrator Pistole met with the World Customs Organization Secretary General and the Director of the Universal Postal Union among others.

In addition, TSA continues to coordinate with our sister components at DHS, as well other relevant agencies, such as the Department of State and the Federal Aviation Administration, to further enhance the inter-agency process and communication.  For example, TSA works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) through current initiatives such as the Air Cargo Advance Screening Project.  Through this effort, TSA and CBP obtain manifest information for cargo destined for the United States before it is loaded on inbound flights, allowing TSA and CBP analysts to identify shipments warranting heightened screening based on jointly developed standards for high risk cargo.

OGS recently created a Rapid Response team based at the Transportation Security Operations Center to oversee all international critical incident management activities.  The capability of the Rapid Response team to get into a region in crisis quickly and mitigate security vulnerabilities is vital to the international TSA mission.  Most recently, the team responded to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan by deploying additional personnel to assist OGS staff working at the U.S Embassy in Tokyo.  The Rapid Response ensured unified and continued communication and collaboration between the Departments of State and Homeland Security. 

Following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, TSA deployed a Rapid Response to assist that country and international aid organizations in re-opening the Port Au Prince airport.  Opening up the airport was essential to the international relief effort and to the delivery of goods to the county in the wake of the disaster.  The OGS ASSIST program began where the Rapid Response Team left off and worked with Haitian officials, carriers, and other countries to provide technology and training to ensure that security requirements were met at the airport.

Assistance and training have also recently been provided to other countries including Liberia, St. Lucia, Georgia and Yemen.  Following the attempted terrorist attacks on cargo operations this past October, TSA immediately deployed a team to Yemen to assess cargo security programs.  Subsequently, TSA procured and delivered Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) equipment and provided training to mitigate threats to the cargo security network.  Separately, in Liberia, OGS coordinated with the host government and Delta Airlines to ensure aviation security standards were met, opening the way for direct flights from Liberia to the United States. 

In the final mission area of capacity development, we work closely with ICAO and other foreign partners to eliminate duplicative efforts by coordinating training given by donor nations to countries in need of technical assistance.  In FY 2010, our Capacity Development branch provided 45 aviation security training sessions in 28 countries and is scheduled to provide 51 sessions in 35 countries in fiscal year 2011.  New courses in development will include topics such as national civil aviation security program development, interviewing techniques for suspicious persons, and training and recertification program development.  

Looking Ahead

Key among TSA OGS’s priorities to address the evolving threat are initiatives designed to continue to develop a workforce of capable and responsive international personnel.  There will be increased emphasis on expanding the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the OGS workforce as the challenges they are expected to face will require advanced technical knowledge, diplomacy, adaptability, innovation, precise judgment, creative problem solving, and an understanding of the international norms and cultures.   

OGS will continue to visit and assess international airports in order to verify compliance with international standards and TSA security requirements.  Additionally, we will pursue increased access to those international airports that present a high risk especially where TSA believes it is necessary to more frequently review compliance.  Key priorities related to compliance in the years ahead include: incorporating more advanced risk analysis in our compliance operations to look beyond the Standards and Recommended Practices put forward by ICAO to identify vulnerabilities more broadly in order to quantify risks; enhancing automation efforts to allow for data examination to support risk analysis; and identifying enhancements to international standards or TSA requirements.

TSA OGS will continue outreach and engagement to foster a common view of the threat at the international level, which will also increase our ability to conduct compliance and capacity development efforts.  Outreach and engagement efforts in the years ahead will continue to occur at the global, regional, bilateral and industry levels.  These efforts include: active support and engagement with ICAO; finding mechanisms to share releasable threat data through ICAO’s information sharing framework to encourage mutual recognition of the threat to international aviation; coordination of international capacity development efforts through ICAO to ensure the provision of technical assistance to those most in need, sharing resources, and avoiding duplication of effort; developing more robust coalitions at the regional level to advance strategic goals and objectives; and strengthening partnerships with key aviation security partners, including key industry stakeholders, to advance strategic goals and objectives.

We will continue to work to effectively address the needs of partner nations to build sustainable aviation security practices through capacity development.  TSA will continue to support capacity development efforts and work to establish the ASSIST Program as an international model for capacity development while also exporting the program to more locations to expand its reach and provide technical assistance to additional governments. 

Conclusion

OGS is one part of the holistic approach to security that TSA uses to mitigate the threat both internationally and domestically.  Our international efforts effectively provide the first layer of security thousands of miles from our shores.  I always say that the sun never sets on OGS, as we have someone at work around the world, every minute of every day. 

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and I look forward to answering your questions about TSA’s work in the international arena. 

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