Agency to pay closer attention to airline and airport employee screening

The effectiveness of airport security can only be as strong as its weakest link. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is taking a closer look at airline and airport employees as it seeks to plug any potential holes in the vast security apparatus we flyers only get to see a small part of.

After an incident involving gun smuggling at Atlanta's largest airport in 2014, the TSA tasked the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) to review possible vulnerabilities and submit recommendations to the TSA. In a press release, Secretary Jeh Johnson of the TSA mentioned that he had asked the ASAC to identify trends to see if additional security measures, resources, investments or policy changes are needed. The Secretary stated in a press release: "I made this request after an incident in Atlanta that occurred in December 2014, which raised questions about potential vulnerabilities regarding the screening and vetting of all airport-based employees. Immediately following the incident in December 2014 TSA increased the random and unpredictable screening of aviation workers at various airport access points to mitigate potential security vulnerabilities."

Secretary Johnson stated in his press release that the TSA has been directed to take the following immediate actions based on the recommendations of the ASAC:

1.Until TSA establishes a system for "real-time recurrent" criminal history background checks for all aviation workers, require fingerprint-based Criminal History Records Checks every two years for all airport employee SIDA [Security Identification Display Area] badge holders.

2.Require airport and airline employees traveling as passengers to be screened by TSA prior to travel.

3.Require airports to reduce the number of access points to secured areas to an operational minimum.

4.Increase aviation employee screening, to include additional randomization screening throughout the workday.

5.Re-emphasize and leverage the Department of Homeland Security "If You See Something, Say Something™" initiative to improve situational awareness and encourage detection and reporting of threat activity.

A specialized working group within the ASAC was created to identify possible areas of vulnerability from within the "sterile" (post-security) areas of airports. The group consisted largely of airline, airport and security stakeholders. IAPA is a current member of the larger ASAC body and has worked on international passenger sub-committees as well as passenger advocacy sub-committees. ASAC's core mission is to examine areas of civil aviation security and develop recommendations for the improvement of civil aviation security methods, equipment, and procedures.