Thursday, September 07, 2006

CAPA: Aviation Security Report Card

The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA), a trade association of passenger and cargo pilots, issued a press release today on the subject of its annual Aviation Security Report Card.

CAPA says that there has been "little progress in addressing major air security concerns." The press release identifies "several areas requiring urgent action." It attributes "an industry lobbying campaign that continually puts profits ahead of passengers" as a reason for the lack of progress.
"While airline CEOs sit behind the safety of their immobile desks to ponder the challenges of generating revenue, passengers and aircrew members who frequent the skies are left to worry that they will be at the mercy of a weak aviation security program should terrorists attack," said CAPA President Gary Boettcher.
Here are some of the security issues that CAPA says require urgent attention:
  • Biometric credentialing -- Readily available technology to identify aircrew and ramp personnel has been delayed by TSA because of misplaced priorities. The lack of progress on this front earned federal officials an F grade.
  • Cargo inspections -- Relying on an inadequate "known- shipper" program, TSA has essentially left cargo uninspected and vulnerable to sabotage, resulting in a D-grade. Cargo airlines remain "one of the weakest links in the aviation security system -- largely because of big business lobby efforts," Boettcher said. CAPA urged TSA to dedicate resources to concrete cargo inspection methods, improved explosives detection, including stepped-up use of canines, one of the few positive programs.
  • Protecting aircraft on the ground -- The nation's airports are largely unprotected on their perimeters, and aircraft on the ramp are unguarded, susceptible to sabotage, earning a D grade in the CAPA report. Although aircraft security inspections are adequate, the aircraft are vulnerable afterwards because of the lack of effective and consistent security of aircraft and airport ramps.
  • Aircrew training/notification of threats -- Five years after 9/11, airline Captains still are routinely denied access to information about potential threats, earning federal officials a D grade in this category. In addition, training for aircrew in dealing with terrorism threats is not effective, nor is it encouraged.
  • Screening -- While more than half of TSA's resources have gone to passenger screening and carry-on bags, screeners are hamstrung because they are prohibited from using risk-based behavior profiling. Instead, aircrew and workers with ramp access are unnecessarily screened -- tens of million of times a year for individuals with security clearances. This category gets a C- grade.
On the issue of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or shoulder-mounted missiles, CAPA gave officials a grade of "Incomplete."
"We have to salute the FBI and DHS officials for keeping these systems out of the country, as far as we know," Boettcher said. "But eventually we must develop effective countermeasures - the sooner the better."
There was praise for both the Federal Air Marshal Service, and the program known as the Federal Flight Deck Officers program, under which pilots can be armed. CAPA urges Congress to provide more funding for both of these programs.

Although CAPA has been working with TSA, DHS and members of Congress, CAPA President Gary Boettcher says that progress has been slow, and that is frustrating for pilots.
"In the 2004 Intelligence Reform & Terrorism Protection Act, Congress mandated a series of reports on critical aviation security issues," he said. "But as far as we can tell, not a single report has been written and submitted to Congress." "Our nation cannot afford to avoid behavior profiling or physical inspections of cargo," he said. "Our pilots believe it's urgent that we plug these security gaps."
Source: Annual Aviation Security Report Card Finds Little Change, Many Concerns; Pilots Troubled by Slowing Air Security Improvements - U.S. Newswire

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