- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2015

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is compromising the safety of airline passengers and aircraft by improperly managing the maintenance of its airport screening equipment, according to a government watchdog.

The administration has not issued adequate policies and procedures to airports for carrying out equipment maintenance-related responsibilities, shows a report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.

As a result, TSA cannot adequately oversee the maintenance of equipment routinely used to screen passengers and their baggage as they travel to and from various airports throughout the country, the report states.

“Because TSA does not adequately oversee equipment maintenance, it cannot be assured that routine preventative maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use,” the report said. “Without diligent oversight … TSA risks shortening equipment life and incurring costs to replace equipment.”

Those equipment failures may lead to longer wait times and delays in passenger and baggage screening, and may be less effective in detecting dangerous items, the watchdog said.

“Consequently the safety of airline passengers and aircraft could be jeopardized,” the report said.

Each day, TSA screens about 1.8 million airline passengers and about 1.2 million checked bags at roughly 450 domestic airports nationwide.

The government watchdog recommends TSA develop and implement a preventive maintenance validation process, develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure that contractors complete corrective maintenance actions and penalize those contractors who do not comply with the equipment maintenance process.

TSA officials say that they agree with the recommendations made by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General John Roth. Their only bone of contention is with the title of the report, which is an inaccurate characterization of the report’s conditions and findings, according to a TSA response letter to Mr. Roth.

TSA recognizes the importance of identifying new methods for improving oversight of equipment contracts and maintenance, said agency spokesman Bruce Anderson.

“As the agency charged with protecting nearly 1.8 million passengers who travel through U.S. airports every day, we take seriously the responsibility to ensure the operational use of screening equipment,” he said. “TSA concurs with the Office of Inspector General recommendations and has already begun work on the necessary enhancements in September 2014. We anticipate completion of that work by the end of 2015.”

• Maggie Ybarra can be reached at mybarra@washingtontimes.com.

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