The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today continued comprehensive efforts to strengthen air cargo security by announcing requirements designed to protect the more than 50,000 tons of cargo that is transported aboard passenger and all-cargo aircraft each day. The security requirements mark the first substantial changes to air cargo regulations since 1999, and represent a joint government-industry vision of an enhanced security baseline….
The Air Cargo Final Rule makes permanent some practices already in place and adds others. Major new security measures include:
- Consolidating approximately 4,000 private industry Known Shipper lists into one central database managed by TSA. This will allow TSA to have more visibility into the activities of companies shipping on passenger aircraft and permit more in-depth vetting of known shippers.
- Requiring background checks of approximately 51,000 off-airport freight forwarder employees.
- Extending secure areas of airports to include ramps and cargo facilities. This will require an additional 50,000 cargo aircraft operator employees to receive full criminal history background checks.
This process has taken far too long. Sections 110(a) and 110(f) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, passed in November of 2001, told TSA to move forward on air cargo security, and now we’re finally out of the end of the tunnel 4.5 years later, and 18 months after the draft regulations were first released.
And this shouldn’t be the end of the story. There are some technological limits today in terms of what is feasible and cost-effective. This a serious threat, but not the most serious one from the perspectives of threat, vulnerability and consequence. But these facts should not make anyone complacent: research and development should continue on new ULD-screening technologies, and the United States should look carefully at Australia’s aggressive plans for air cargo security.
Update (5/22): Here’s the link to the complete final rule.