Airport Screeners Not Getting the Training They Need, Says DHS Report

By Matthew Harwood

The airport security workers who screen passengers, carry-on bags, and checked baggage are inadequately trained because of poor management by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), reports the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) inspector general (.pdf).

"The screening workforce is TSA's most important asset for ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public; however, the agency has not articulated a standard methodology to keep its training material current and relevant," the inspector general's audit concludes after visiting eight airports and interviewing 385 transportation security officers (TSOs).

The October report on systemic training problems was released last week amid a chorus of criticism about TSA's screening methods involving full body scans and "enhanced" pat-downs.

According to the inspector general, the TSA does not have a documented program to ensure its approximately 43,000 transportation security officers (TSOs) receive up-to-date training. The report finds that the TSA office established in 2006 to organize and coordinate screener training did not take "an active leadership" role until last year due in part to the emergence of new threats.

"Without guidance and a documented process for updating training based on screener performance data and changes in technology or equipment, TSA may be missing opportunities to enhance its TSOs' skills and abilities," the inspector general warns.

According to federal law, screeners must receive 40 hours of classroom instruction followed by 60 hours of on-the-job training to ensure they can operate the technology and identify threats. Screeners who fail operational tests must undergo remedial training.

But TSOs interviewed by investigators complained that the TSA does not provide the time, equipment, and support necessary to complete their training. Training computers were either slow or malfunctioned. In some airports, the agency did not allocate enough computers so screeners could easily complete their training lessons. In other airports, TSA did not ensure that training computers were conveniently located close to checkpoints or in areas where they could concentrate.


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