Good morning, Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Keating, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. We are pleased to appear before you today to discuss the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) security operations at U.S. commercial airports and to address any questions you may have about security at Logan International Airport (BOS) in particular.
As you know, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), (P.L. 107-71), authorized TSA to work with U.S. airport operators to strengthen security at access and critical control points throughout the United States to maximize the security of passengers and aircraft.
While TSA’s aviation security standards provide a foundation for a comprehensive national aviation security program, the distinctive footprint, location and requirements of each airport require each facility to have its own Airport Security Program (ASP). The ASP at Logan Airport incorporates specific security elements including perimeter security measures, addressing the prevention and detection of the unauthorized entry, presence and movement of individuals and vehicles into and within secured areas that may be unique to Logan.
TSA’s Primary Mission: Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security
TSA secures our Nation’s commercial airports through a variety of programs. The programs most familiar to the traveling public include passenger screening operations conducted by Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) at security checkpoints; carry-on and checked baggage screening; and the Secure Flight program, which fulfills a key 9/11 Commission recommendation to implement a uniform watch list matching program for all passengers traveling from, within, or bound for the U.S. against names on government terrorist watch lists. Other layers of security play an equally important role in safeguarding our Nation against terrorist threats. These additional layers include the prevention and detection of unauthorized entry, presence, and movement of individuals and ground vehicles into, and within, the secured and Airport Operations Areas (AOA) of an airport.
TSA’s risk-based and intelligence-driven Security Playbook program strengthens the transportation security environment by increasing unpredictability and providing additional layers of security. This program employs security measures at direct access points and airport perimeters and uses a variety of resources and equipment to conduct screening of individuals and vehicles entering the secured area. Examples of the security measures that may be employed at direct access points and airport perimeters include: vehicle inspections, explosives trace detection of individuals and property, enhanced screening, accessible property searches, and identification/media verifications, as well as behavior detection.
Behavior Detection Pilot Program at BOS
TSA has long recognized the value of a layered, threat based approach to transportation security and the need to focus more of our resources on people we know less about who potentially pose a threat to aviation security.
As part of its ongoing commitment to implement risk-based security measures, TSA is conducting a pilot program at BOS designed to assess the expanded use of behavior detection in the airport screening process. Extensive research indicates behavior analysis and interviewing are effective methods for detecting hostile intent and potential high-risk individuals. TSA’s own behavior detection program, the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program – whose indicators have been scientifically validated through research conducted by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate – revealed that behavior detection was effective for identifying persons attempting to defeat the screening process. BOS was the first airport in the country to implement the agency’s SPOT program, which is now employed at more than 160 airports nationwide.
As part of the pilot, TSA is utilizing specially trained and certified Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) who are focusing on increased passenger interactions and behavior analysis in conjunction with boarding pass and identification review at the entrance to the checkpoint. The advanced training the officers receive includes both classroom and on the job training designed to enhance their communication skills to engage in conversations with passengers to determine whether they pose a threat to transportation security. Although the vast majority of passengers will experience a casual greeting conversation with the BDO as they begin the security checkpoint screening process, a small number of passengers may be selected for an extended, but still limited, conversation and possibly for additional screening.
The goal of this pilot is to understand how behavior detection can be used to improve both the effectiveness of transportation security and the passenger experience. TSA will evaluate how this pilot program impacts security, screening operations and passenger throughput, among other things, and these results will help determine how the agency proceeds with the program.
Collaboration: An Essential Component of Security at BOS
Collaboration is an essential component of transportation security. Since its creation, TSA has engaged Massport, the Massachusetts State Police, and the airline carriers in a cooperative and complementary effort to enhance security throughout Logan Airport, best exemplified by the daily morning security briefing. At this meeting, we discuss incidents of the previous day, new security measures, and plans for the coming days and weeks. It is an opportunity for everyone to share their views and concerns to reach a common understanding of roles and responsibilities.
Some of the tangible results arising from the cooperative atmosphere include:
- Massport and the State Police partnership with TSA assets to develop and execute “plays” that deploy varying security measures on a random basis throughout the terminals and the secure areas of the airport;
- In the event of an incident, TSA, Massport, State Police, and the affected carriers convene an immediate conference call to determine the facts, assess the risk, and jointly decide on a course of action to resolve the matter with as little disruption as possible to the continued operation of the airport;
- TSA and Massport have worked together to improve Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) coverage of the airport’s critical areas, providing TSA officials with real time access to all of the camera views from within TSA offices; and
- Cooperation extends across the Federal level as well, as illustrated by the creation of the Nation’s first airport-based counterterrorism office. DHS components, including TSA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will work at the FBI’s newly opened Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) office at Logan Airport to improve communications on security-related tasks.
Perimeter Security: A Shared Responsibility
As required by statute, TSA prescribes procedures for screening individuals, and inspecting goods, property, vehicles and other equipment before entry into the secured area of an airport. These security access regulations, directives, and procedures safeguard against unauthorized persons having access to aircraft, thereby reducing opportunities for criminal violence, sabotage, or other destructive acts. These safeguards help to ensure the safety and integrity of individuals involved in the aviation domain, including aircraft service providers and workers involved in catering and passenger amenities onboard aircraft. Similarly, TSA requires security access programs for vendors with direct access to airfields and aircraft. Ultimately, the airport authority is responsible for abiding by the perimeter security regulations set by TSA and must establish procedures for its personnel and resources, which may include law enforcement personnel, to ensure compliance with the regulatory requirements.
Transportation Security Inspectors Monitor Compliance
TSA conducts ongoing and comprehensive airport inspections to enhance security and mitigate risk associated with perimeter integrity, including Joint Vulnerability Assessments, conducted with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), regulatory Special Emphasis Inspections (SEIs) that focus on specific aspects of operations, and the testing of access control processes at airports. Based upon the results of these inspections and assessments, TSA develops mitigation strategies that enhance an airport’s security posture and determines if any changes are required. TSA collaborates with airport operators to identify effective practices across the industry regarding access control and perimeter security.
To counter the potential risks to perimeter security, TSA deploys Transportation Security Inspectors (TSIs) to help determine whether airport operators are complying with all aspects of TSA regulations and the airport’s ASP, as well as to provide strategic oversight regarding an airport’s compliance status. The collaborative effort between TSA and the airport results in security enhancements to the airport and, where appropriate, amendments to the airport’s ASP.
TSIs focus their assessments on security throughout the airport environments, ranging from the curbside of the airport to the outermost perimeter fence along the edge of the airport property. Regional Security Inspectors (RSIs) located at TSA headquarters also conduct annual and periodic oversight assessments of inspection activity for air carrier and airport facilities at Category X, I, and II airports. TSIs can recommend that civil penalties be assessed by TSA when repeated or egregious instances of noncompliance with regulations and security procedures are discovered.
Earlier this year, TSA’s Office of Security Operations-Compliance Programs initiated a Special Emphasis Assessment (SEA) and an SEI of all Category X and Category I through IV airports, evaluating perimeter security, including fencing, non-fenced man-made barriers, natural barriers, CCTV, electronic intrusion and motion detection devices, and other barriers.
Assessments are complete for all Category X and I airports and the remaining airport assessments are expected to be completed later this month.
TSA’s goal, at all times, is to maximize transportation security and stay ahead of evolving terrorist threats while protecting passengers’ privacy and facilitating the efficient flow of travelers and legitimate commerce. We want to thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to discuss this important issue with you today and we are happy to answer any questions you may have.