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Tue, Nov 18, 2003

TSA Starts 'Random Inspections' Of Air Cargo

Foreign All-Cargo Carriers to Meet Higher Security Standards

The TSA has issued a new security directive that will require random inspection of air cargo and to require foreign all-cargo air carriers to comply with the same cargo security procedures that domestic air carriers must follow. Passenger aircraft that carry cargo and all-cargo planes, both foreign and domestic, will be subject to the random inspections on flights within, into, and out of the U.S. Inspections will be done by the carriers. TSA will ensure that inspections are completed properly.

Foreign all-cargo air carriers operating into and out of the United States also will be required to follow security plans approved by TSA which detail procedures for screening. In addition, plans will verify the identities of persons with access to planes and ensure the security of parked aircraft. The directives also outline reporting requirements for foreign air carriers should potential threats arise.

“These new requirements constitute important steps in our efforts to have the best possible protection for air cargo,” said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. "Furthermore, these actions constitute the building blocks of a comprehensive approach that will significantly enhance air cargo security.”

Issuance of these requirements is an interim step in the implementation of TSA’s broader Air Cargo Strategic Plan that employs a layered approach to securing critical elements of the entire air cargo supply chain. Incorporating a threat-based risk management approach similar to that used in the maritime cargo environment by the Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, this plan commits to ensuring all cargo deemed “higher risk” is inspected.

The plan responds to comments made in September 2003 by working groups of TSA’s Aviation Security Advisory Committee, as well as recommendations from the General Accounting Office and the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General. The Strategic Plan will be supported by a Notice of Proposed Rule Making and will accompany security programs and initiatives.

The first main objective of the Strategic Plan calls for augmentation of TSA’s Known Shipper Program, which prohibits air carriers from accepting cargo that does not originate from shippers who meet TSA’s Known Shipper requirements. The plan provides for full deployment of the program’s Known Shipper Automated Database and Indirect Air Carrier Database, which will allow TSA and air carriers to have faster access and thorough information on applicants for Known Shipper status and those seeking to ship cargo aboard passenger aircraft.

A second component of the Strategic Plan is the development of a cargo pre-screening system similar to that used at our nation’s borders. TSA will use terrorist watch lists and federal and commercial databases to identify suspicious or higher risk shipments. From this they will develop a “risk score” for cargo shipments. TSA is working closely with Customs and Border Protection to build on existing pre-screening technology in place in the maritime environment.

TSA will accelerate research and development of technological solutions and new inspections protocols for inspecting air cargo as the third component of its Strategic Plan. Using $55 million provided in fiscal year 2004, TSA will assess the viability of using Explosive Detection Systems, currently used to screen passenger baggage, or other systems that might have the potential to detect threats in air cargo.

Technology development efforts will be augmented by deployment of canines in the cargo environment for the development of new inspections protocols. TSA is conducting pilot programs using canine teams to inspect certain classes of mail at 11 airports and in the inspection of general cargo at six airports.

TSA’s Strategic Plan focuses on strategies to secure air cargo perimeters, facilities, equipment and personnel. Enhanced background checks on persons who have access to cargo or cargo aircraft and required screening of passengers aboard cargo planes are among many measures that will be adopted.

FMI: www.dhs.gov

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