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  4. Written testimony of the Transportation Security Administration for a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security hearing titled “Access Control Point Breaches at Our Nation's Airports: Anomalies or Systemic Failures?”

Written testimony of Transportation Security Administration Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement Assistant Administrator John Sammon for a House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation Security hearing titled “Access Control Point Breaches at Our Nation's Airports: Anomalies or Systemic Failures?”

Release Date: May 16, 2012

311 Cannon


Good afternoon Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Jackson Lee and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) successes and challenges in developing and implementing a comprehensive risk-based approach to secure our Nation’s transportation systems, including the management of airport access controls. In 2011, the Transportation Security Administration’s 50,000 Transportation Security Officers screened more than 603 million passengers at 450 airports across the country and stopped more than 125,000 prohibited items at airport checkpoints. Of those items, more than 1,300 were firearms.

TSA employs risk-based, intelligence-driven operations to prevent terrorist attacks and to reduce the vulnerability of the Nation’s transportation system to terrorism. TSA protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. TSA’s security measures create a multi-layered system of transportation security that mitigates risk. In partnership with airport operators, airlines and local law enforcement agencies, TSA secures our Nation’s commercial airports through a variety of programs that create layers of security. These measures include a focus on preventing and detecting the unauthorized entry, presence and movement of individuals and ground vehicles into and within the Airport Operations Areas (AOA) and the secured area of an airport.

Risk-Based Security

TSA is committed to focusing resources on higher risk aviation passengers, while speeding the travel of lower risk populations, and we have made significant progress transforming TSA’s approach to aviation security away from a one-size-fits-all paradigm. We continue to evolve our security approach by examining the procedures and technologies we use, how specific security procedures are carried out, and how screening is conducted.

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 AOA. Examples of the security measures that may be employed at direct access points and airport perimeters include: vehicles inspections, explosive trace detection (ETD) of individuals and property, enhanced screening, accessible property searches, and ID/media verifications, as well as behavior detection.

Following are some of the concrete steps we have taken to implement key components of the agency’s intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to security, advancing the agency toward the ultimate goal of becoming a high performing counterterrorism agency that provides the most effective security in the most efficient way possible.

Known Crewmember

We hold airline pilots responsible for the safety of the traveling public every time they fly a plane. It makes sense to treat them as our trusted partners. To build on our risk-based approach to security, we are currently conducting a pilot where TSA security officers positively verify the identity and employment status of airplane pilots, which enables the pilots to receive expedited access through the checkpoint. The Known Crewmember program is the result of a collaborative effort between the airline industry, pilots, and TSA, which currently allows uniformed pilots from 28 airlines in ten airports to show two forms of identification. After evaluating operational data from ten airports, and through much discussion with industry representatives, we are planning to expand the Known Crewmember solution to more airports this calendar year.

TSA Pre✓™ Expedited Passenger Screening

Perhaps the most widely known risk-based security enhancement we are putting in place is TSA Pre✓™. Since first implementing this initiative in the Fall of 2011, the program has been expanded to 14 airports and over 1,000,000 passengers around the country have experienced expedited security screening through TSA Pre✓™.

Under TSA Pre✓™, travelers volunteer information about themselves prior to flying. TSA pre-screens TSA Pre✓™ passengers each time they fly through participating airports. If the indicator embedded in their boarding pass reflects eligibility for expedited screening, the passenger is able to use the TSA Pre✓™ lane. TSA Pre✓™ travelers are able to divest fewer items, which may include leaving on their shoes, jacket, and light outerwear, and may enjoy other modifications to the standard screening process. As always, TSA continues to incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the security process, and at no point are TSA Pre✓™ travelers guaranteed expedited screening.

Currently, eligible participants include certain frequent flyers from Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, as well as existing U.S. citizen members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) trusted traveler programs, such as Global Entry, flying domestically on participating airlines. TSA is actively working with other major air carriers to expand both the number of participating airlines and the number of airports where expedited screening through TSA Pre✓™ is provided. In February 2012, Secretary Napolitano and TSA Administrator Pistole announced the goal to have TSA Pre✓™ rolled out and operating at 35 of the busiest domestic airports by the end of 2012.

TSA has expanded the TSA Pre✓™ population to include active duty U.S. Armed Forces members with a Common Access Card (CAC) traveling out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Similar to other Pre✓™ travelers, service members always undergo the standard TSA Secure Flight pre-screening. If we are also able to verify the service member is in good standing with the Department of Defense, by scanning their CAC card at the airport, they will receive TSA Pre✓™ expedited screening benefits.

Credential Authentication Technology/Boarding Pass Scanning System

TSA is also employing technology to automatically verify boarding passes, and provide TSA with a greater ability to identify altered or fraudulent passenger identification documents. This technology, known as Credential Authentication Technology – Boarding Pass Scanning Systems (CAT-BPSS), will eventually replace the current procedure used by security officers to detect fraudulent or altered documents. CAT-BPSS enhances security and increases efficiency by automatically comparing a passenger’s ID and boarding pass to a set of security features to concurrently seek to identify indicators of fraud and ensure that the information on both documents match. The system can screen a wide range of travel documents. TSA began testing the technology in July 2011 and has begun evaluations at select airports.

Strengthening Access Control

Effective access control at our Nation’s airports is vital to ensure the safety of the traveling public. The regulatory compliance inspector workforce routinely conducts access control tests as directed by the national compliance work plan. Access control procedures are reviewed and tested at all areas where access may be gained to non-public areas of the airport to include the air operations area and the Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA)/Secure areas. Access control measures can range from simple lock and key control to biometric devices that may require a scan of your fingerprint or iris to make positive identification of individuals trying to gain entry into the secure airport environment. Inspectors use different methods to try and defeat or compromise various access control devices as part of their regular duties. If any weaknesses are discovered, they are communicated to the airport operator immediately so that corrective measures can be implemented.

TSA also conducts ongoing and comprehensive airport inspections to enhance security and mitigate risk associated with access control and perimeter integrity, including Joint Vulnerability Assessments, Special Emphasis Inspections, and the testing of access control processes at airports. TSA analyzes the results of these inspections and assessments to develop mitigation strategies that enhance an airport’s security posture, and to determine if any changes are required. TSA also works in collaboration with airport operators to identify effective best practices across the industry regarding access control and perimeter security.


Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss TSA’s efforts in securing our Nation’s transportation system in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

Last Updated: 03/10/2022
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