TSA Watch: GAO's Critique

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Rarely does the General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress' watchdog agency, have anything good to say about the agencies and bureaucracies at which it takes a close look. That was true of the FAA in the years before Sept. 11, 2001 -- on any subject, including aviation security -- and it's true now when it comes to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). As AVweb reported, the GAO recently wrote Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that the "TSA concluded that a variety of factors made general aviation, including aerial advertising operations, vulnerable to terrorist attack." The GAO's perception of general aviation is all the more important because the agency has underway a long-term study of the industry's "vulnerability" to terrorism, currently scheduled for release in the fall of 2004.

Yesterday, the GAO testified before Congress on aviation security and noted the "TSA has taken limited action to improve general aviation security, leaving general aviation far more open and potentially vulnerable than commercial aviation. General aviation is vulnerable because general aviation pilots and passengers are not screened before takeoff and the contents of general aviation planes are not screened at any point." The GAO's statement also noted, "In the last five years, about 70 aircraft have been stolen from general aviation airports, indicating a potential weakness that could be exploited by terrorists." We can't wait to read what GAO says this fall.