US security argument continues

HOPES for a respite from political meddling, after the introduction of US legislation last year calling for 100 per cent screening of all bellyhold cargo have been dashed. Two US Congressmen have called for a formal review of the approach the US Transportation Security Agency has taken to implement the new law.

The latest criticism comes from Bennie Johnson, Homeland Security Committee chairman and Ed Markey, a long-standing proponent of mandatory screening. They have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to conduct a full review of the TSA’s implementation strategy of the law, including questions to what extent its approach is “commensurate with the level of security for the screening of passenger checked baggage”, what challenges the TSA faces and what the milestones and estimate associated costs are.

Industry executives have dismissed the call for a GAO review as political posturing and a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.

“Why are we revisiting this with a costly and potentially distracting GAO report?” asked Brandon Fried, executive director of the US Airforwarders Association.

“We’re wasting our time, needlessly spending taxpayers’ money. In August, the TSA has to provide an implementation plan and report to Congress. Why then do we need a GAO report that will probably take until the summer to complete?” he continued.

Dave Wirsing, president of consultants Phoenix Marketing, reckoned that the GAO report could possibly slow down work on the implementation of the full screening requirement, which is due to be fully running by the summer of 2010. However he expressed confidence that the report will not lead to a move away from the multi-tiered security approach adopted by the TSA, which combines physical screening along with elements like certified shippers.

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