You Can Keep Your Shoes On

Back in Munchkin Land they’re pillorying Hillary over her emails at the Select Benghazi Committee 1 hearings, Planned Parenthood is taking it in the shorts for what the entire world knows to be deliberately deceptively edited videos, and the House 2 –totes ignoring Obama’s promised veto– sent an over-budget NDAA bill to the Senate that ignores spending caps, requests more money for Defense than necessary and oh! prohibits building facilities to hold Guantanamo detainees on American soil. 3 In other words, life as usual among the ‘tards doing the People’s business back in WDC.

Meanwhile, wery wery quietly, The Senate Appropriations Committee has been hunting wabbits.

The hearing was called to discuss the (still TSI-clearanced) results of an IG audit of TSA screening. Special Guest Stars include TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger (just confirmed in July; thank you, thank you!) and the  DHS’s IG, John Roth.

What makes this intriguing is that though neither man will explain the results of the audit, IG Roth’s testimony makes it clear the audit limns a portrait of a less than fully functioning agency:

Our testing was designed to test checkpoint operations in real world conditions. They were not designed to test specific, discrete segments of checkpoint operations, but rather the system as a whole. The failures included failures in the technology, in TSA procedures, and in human error. We found layers of security simply missing.

Neffenger adds enough details to make it clear TSA was more concerned over screening speed rather than security.

The team’s initial conclusion is that the screening effectiveness challenges noted by the Inspector General were not merely a performance problem to be solved solely by retraining our officers. Officer performance is but one among many of the challenges. TSA frontline officers have repeatedly demonstrated during their annual proficiency evaluations that they have the knowledge and the skill to perform the screening mission well. Nor was this principally a failure of the AIT technology. These systems have greatly enhanced TSA’s ability to detect and disrupt new and evolving threats to aviation. AIT technology continues to perform to specification standards when maintained and employed properly, and we continue to improve its detection capabilities.

The challenge can be succinctly described as a set of multi-dimensional factors that have influenced the conduct of screening operations, creating a disproportionate focus on efficiency and speed in screening operations rather than security effectiveness. These challenges range across six dimensions: leadership, technology, workforce performance, the environment, operating procedures, and system design. 4 Of these six, strong drivers include leadership focus, environmental influences, and system design.

Pressures driven by increasing passenger volume, an increase in checkpoint screening of baggage due to fees charged for checked bags as well as inconsistent or limited enforcement of size requirements for hand-carried bags and the one bag plus one personal item (1+1) standard1 create a stressed screening environment at airport checkpoints. The challenges also include the range of complex procedures that we ask our officers to employ, resulting in cognitive overload and personnel not properly employing the technology or a specific procedure. The limitations of the technology, the systems detection standards, TSA officers’ lack of training on equipment limitations, and procedures that failed to resolve the alarms appropriately all undermined our ability to effectively screen, as noted by the Inspector General’s report.

Shoes!Roth’s testimony makes it clear he repeatedly brought to senior management’s attention the leadership issues during TSA Administrator John Pistole’s reign; this is abetted by some of Neffenger testimony. We’ll see how much this is internalized into new standards and procedures in the coming months and how much is just lip service.

However we were greatly pleased that Neffenger is looking at technology that will scan our footwear for explosives without us having us remove them.

TSA: Improving One Shoe at a Time. 5

ReThug Extremism

Show 5 footnotes

  1. Which have now officially lasted longer than the Watergate hearings.
  2. Really just the ReThugs…who else?
  3. Which is stupid: Leavenworth is the perfect place for those few legitimate terrorists left in the Cuba facility. The efficacy of this proposal was vetted immediately Brownbackistan’s current ‘governor’ stomped his feet and held his breath until he turned blue decrying the suggestion.
  4. So…pretty much you’re saying you have grave issues across the entirety of your agency’s brief? Outstanding!
  5. Apparently.

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