The Department of Homeland Security conducted undercover tests of multiple airport security checkpoints and found that screeners, their equipment, or their procedures failed more than half of the time, according to a new report which has not yet been released to the public.
Inspectors “identified vulnerabilities with TSA’s screener performance, screening equipment, and associated procedures,” according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.
When ABC News asked a source familiar with the report if the failure rate was 80 percent, the response was, “You are in the ballpark.”
After a private, classified briefing to the House Committee on Homeland Security, members of Congress held a public hearing in which they called the failures by the Transportation Security Administration “disturbing.”
Representative Mike Rogers told TSA Administrator David Pekoske, who was confirmed by the Senate this summer: “This agency that you run is broken badly and it needs your attention.”
According to the DHS, eight recommendations have been made to TSA to improve checkpoint security, but it’s not clear what those recommendations are.
The news of the failure comes two years after ABC News reported that secret teams from the DHS found that TSA failed 95 percent of the time to stop inspectors from covertly smuggling weapons or explosive materials through screenings.
Major changes took place at TSA by then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, as a result. The agency also opened a training academy for transportation security officers and changed procedures to reduce long lines.
Although their performance is still very poor, TSA did better in this round of testing than two years ago, according to the source familiar with the report.
In Thursday’s public hearing on Capitol Hill, members pushed for the full implementation of new scanner equipment that creates a 3D image of bags, giving screeners better ability to spot threatening items. The equipment is already being tested in TSA checkpoints in at least two airports, but software and installation challenges have slowed wider implementation.
Representative Bill Keating questioned if the diversion of money from the agency is being used to build the president’s border wall.
“We have the technology and resources to do it but we’re not doing it because … we’re paying for a wall,” Keating said. He also noted that Viper teams, specially trained Homeland Security teams that use canines to secure transportation facilities, are being cut from 31 to eight.
It is not clear when the report will be released to the public.
The TSA said in a statement that the agency “concurs with the DHS OIG findings and is committed to aggressively implementing the recommendations.”
“We take the OIG’s findings very seriously and are implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints,” said Pekoske. “We are focused on staying ahead of a dynamic threat to aviation with continued investment in the workforce, enhanced procedures and new technologies.”
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