“Securing Our Skies: Oversight of Aviation Credentials.”


What We Found

TSA’s multi-layered process to vet aviation workers for potential links to terrorism was generally effective. In addition to initially vetting every application for new credentials, TSA recurrently vetted aviation workers with access to secured areas of commercial airports every time the Consolidated Terrorist Watchlist was updated. However, our testing showed that TSA did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes because TSA was not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under the interagency watchlisting policy effective at the time of our audit.

TSA had less effective controls in place for ensuring that aviation workers 1) had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airport areas, and 2) had lawful status and were authorized to work in the United States. In general, TSA relied on airport operators to perform criminal history and work authorization checks, but had limited oversight over these commercial entities. Thus, TSA lacked assurance that it properly vetted all credential applicants.

Further, thousands of records used for vetting workers contained potentially incomplete or inaccurate data, such as an initial for a first name and missing social security numbers. TSA did not have appropriate edit checks in place to reject such records from vetting. Without complete and accurate information, TSA risks credentialing and providing unescorted access to secure airport areas for workers with potential to harm the nation’s air transportation system.

TSA Response

TSA concurred with all six recommendations. As of the date of this testimony, three recommendations are closed and three are open and resolved, meaning that TSA and OIG have agreed on the corrective actions that TSA will take to close the recommendations.

Statement of John Roth, Inspector General Department of Homeland Security, before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee — Transportation and Public Assets Subcommittee concerning, “Securing Our Skies: Oversight of Aviation Credentials.”

“Thank you for inviting me here this afternoon to discuss the results of the Office of Inspector General’s audit of the Transportation Security Administration’s vetting of employees with access to secure areas of the airports.  We also reported on TSA worker vetting operations in 2011 and prior years. In addition to reviewing vetting operations, in the past we have also used covert testing to determine whether unauthorized and potentially dangerous individuals could gain access to secured airport areas.

TSA uses multiple layers of security to ensure the safety of the traveling public and transportation systems. Aviation worker vetting is just one area that we have reviewed; we have testified before this and other committees several times in the last year on multiple transportation security vulnerabilities that we believe TSA needs to address. Since 2004, we have published more than 120 audit and inspection reports about TSA’s programs and operations. Our work includes evaluations of passenger and baggage screening, TSA PreCheck, TSA acquisitions, and TSA equipment deployment and maintenance. In our most recent audit on aviation worker vetting, we generally found:

  • TSA’s layered controls for vetting workers for terrorism are generally effective. However, TSA did not identify 73 individuals with terrorismrelated category codes because it was not authorized to receive all terrorism-related categories under current interagency watchlisting policy.
  • TSA had less effective controls in place to ensure that airports have a robust verification process over a credential applicant’s criminal history and authorization to work in the United States.
  • TSA needs to improve the quality of data used for vetting purposes. My testimony today will discuss each of these areas in further detail. BACKGROUND ON TSA VETTING TSA was created in 2001 to ensure the safety and free movement of people and commerce within the Nation’s transportation systems.

My testimony today will discuss each of these areas in further detail.”

Read the complete statement