TITLE

Aviation Security: Long-Standing Problems Impair Airport Screeners' Performance: RCED-00-75

PUB. DATE
June 2000
SOURCE
GAO Reports;6/28/2000, p1
SOURCE TYPE
Government Document
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
The trend in terrorism against U.S. targets, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is toward large-scale incidents for maximum destruction, terror, and media impact--such as the 1995 terrorist plot to blow up 12 U.S. airliners in one day, mainly in the Pacific region. Among the most important safeguards in the United States and other countries against such attacks are airport checkpoints where passengers and carry-on items are screened for dangerous items, such as guns and explosives. However, U.S. screeners, generally contractor employees hired by air carriers, have historically had difficulty in detecting dangerous items. Long-standing problems reduce screeners' accuracy, most notably (1) the rapid turnover of screener personnel--often above 100 percent a year at large airports and, in a recent case, more than 400 percent a year--leaving few experienced screeners to staff checkpoints and (2) human factors, such as the effect of repetitive tasks, that have long affected screeners' hiring, training, and working environment. A key factor in turnover is the low wages that screeners receive. Often they are paid at or close to minimum wage and can earn more at airport fast-food restaurants. Although FAA has established performance improvement goals for screeners and begun efforts to improve screener performance, it has not completed a plan to tie those efforts to achievement of the goals and has not adequately measured its progress in achieving the goals. The screening procedures of the countries GAO visited--Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom--are similar to U.S. procedures, e.g., metal detectors at checkpoints. Some aspects differ. Notably, turnover is less, at about 50 percent a year, in the other countries; wages are higher; and performance may be better.
ACCESSION #
18208569

 

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