New Requirements for 100% Screening of Cargo on Passenger Planes Passed into Law Last Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of that committee, have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to initiate a full review of the Transportation Security Administration’s implementation of a new requirement for screening 100% of the air cargo carried on passenger planes.

More than four years ago, Rep. Markey began working on legislative initiatives to require the screening of all cargo on passenger planes. On August 3, 2007, the president signed the bill to implement the recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission into law, which included a provision requiring screening of 100% of air cargo carried on passenger planes by 2010, with 50 percent of such cargo screened within 18 months from the date of enactment. Until now, TSA has relied on data checks, rather than examination of the contents of cargo, as its primary means for determining whether cargo posed a threat to transportation security.

Rep. Markey said, "Last year we achieved a major homeland security victory by changing the law to screen all cargo carried on passenger planes.  TSA is in the early stages of developing a system to comply with these new mandates.  The GAO's review will help Congress ensure that TSA's system will meet the strong security safeguards required in the new law that are needed to protect airline passengers and crew members."

"Congress mandated 100% screening of air cargo on passenger planes to close known security weaknesses and our work continues to ensure that TSA is held accountable for implementing the intent of Congress," said Rep. Thompson. "Only a comprehensive review can assure us, as the Congressional oversight committee, that TSA's cargo screening program will address systemic weaknesses that have kept us all vulnerable."

Reps. Markey's and Thompson's request asks the GAO specifically to help ensure that the 100% screening mandate is fulfilled "in a manner consistent with Congressional intent."The request poses several specific questions, including:

  • To what extent is TSA's approach to meeting the law's air cargo mandates designed to provide a level of security for air cargo screening that is "commensurate with the level of security for the screening of passenger checked baggage", as required by the Act? 
  • What challenges, if any, does TSA face in meeting the legislative mandates within the timelines set forth in the Act?
  • Please identify the milestones and estimated costs associated with meeting the requirement of screening 100 percent of air cargo, as established by TSA and the Department of Homeland Security. 

The full text of the GAO request is available HERE.


January 30, 2008

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