After assessing U.S. screening protocols, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recommended that the U.S. Department of Homeland of Security weigh the costs and benefits of forcing all-freight carriers to report inbound cargo screening data. In a report, GAO acknowledged that the DHS is currently addressing this recommendation, but some challenges exist.
Although the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has not mandated 100-percent screening on U.S.-bound cargo flights, it announced a Dec. 3, 2012, deadline for in-bound passenger flights in May. The latter mandate was originally slated to go into effect on Dec. 31, 2011, but was pushed back due to industry feedback.
According to GAO, TSA officials said a key reason for the push-back is it’s difficult to verify the accuracy of self-reported screening data provided by international passenger carriers. Because of this, GAO said the “TSA has not yet weighed the costs and benefits of requiring all-cargo carriers to submit screening data, and by doing so, TSA could determine whether this additional data could enhance its efforts to identify potential risks for inbound air cargo, develop cost effective strategies and measures to manage these risks, and provide additional assurance that all-cargo carriers are complying with TSA’s enhanced screening requirements.”
Even so, the GAO report acknowledged that the TSA has taken proactive steps since the October 2010 Yemen cargo bomb scare to boost security of inbound freight. One initiative was the TSA’s installation of a risk-based screening method from October 2010 to May 11 to determine potentially hazardous shipments.
The government agency also judiciously prohibited the transport of belly-hold cargo on passenger aircraft departing from Yemen and Somalia, two nations deemed high-risk, GAO explained in a press release.