Audit criticizes TSA screener training

The Transportation Security Administration needs to better prepare airport screeners, in part by standardizing the training process, according to a report from the Homeland Security inspector general's office.

The report comes at a time of increased scrutiny for TSA because of controversy over body scanners in airports and other proposed security measures. Some groups concerned with privacy issues are urging passengers to boycott the scanners during upcoming holiday travel. TSA's process for updating screener training is informal and undocumented, and the agency lacks strong oversight of the program, which includes 40 hours in the classroom and 60 hours of on-the-job instruction.

The IG report said the agency's on-the-job training also needs improvement. While a TSA official "recognized the importance of a standardized, structured on-the-job training program … TSA was unable to provide documentation of the accomplishments" of established work groups to improve the program. TSA also has failed to implement a formal program for selecting and dispatching qualified on-the-job training monitors.

On-the-job instruction also lacked consistency. At some airports included in the audit, one monitor oversaw trainees, while at other airports several monitors helped train new hires. TSA officials acknowledged in the report "the agency did not strategically plan and document … training development from the onset due to the urgent need to initiate operations in the aftermath" of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

TSA also fails to ensure that trainees have enough time to efficiently complete training requirements, the audit said. Trainees reported being rushed through course material and at one unnamed airport, were allowed to skip some online instruction partly because of staffing challenges.

The audit recommended the agency use officer test results to evaluate training program results, assign on-the-job training responsibilities, and evaluate workforce and training needs to ensure officers have the tools and time necessary to complete the requirements.

In its response, TSA agreed with the report's recommendations. The agency said a 2009 multiyear contract for specialized security training will provide a more structured program, including analysis of performance data and coordination of training with technology.

Other steps the agency has taken to improve training include: quarterly work reviews beginning in fiscal 2011 to prioritize training, formalizing on-the-job preparation programs, and ensuring trainees receive sufficient time to complete required training.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.