- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

Airline passenger and baggage screeners are not acquiring the on-the-job training they need to spot firearms, knives and explosives, and federal authorities have no way of determining how many have completed the required courses, congressional investigators say.

Inadequate training has been identified as a key issue in a succession of reports that have criticized airport screening. Researchers have found screening procedures no more effective than they were before September 11, 2001, even after the federal government spent $10 billion and hired an army of 45,000 staffers to check passengers and their bags for guns, knives and bombs.

A report from the Government Accountability Office published yesterday said the Transportation Security Administration, which employs the checkpoint staffers at airports, “has taken a number of actions to enhance the training” for screeners, “but has encountered difficulties in providing access to recurrent training.”

Nearly half of local TSA managers “reported that there was not sufficient time for screeners to receive recurrent training within regular work hours,” mainly because of understaffing, the report states.

Other problems included a lack of access to the high-speed Internet connections needed to use online training modules.

As a result, the report states, “data for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2004 reported that 75 percent of airports were averaging less than [the required minimum of] three hours of recurrent training per week per screener.”

Moreover, the report found that a lack of internal controls prevents authorities from determining whether required training has been completed, and the TSA “does not clearly define responsibility for ensuring that screeners have completed all required training.”

Investigators said that although authorities had bolstered their screener training programs, almost all the improvements went toward passenger and carry-on baggage screenings, not for the machines and procedures that screen checked baggage.

The Department of Homeland Security, which runs TSA, said it generally concurred with the report’s findings.

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