The Washington Post has a story today that discusses plans within DHS to reallocate screening and explosive detection funds away from the “puffer” machines and toward technology that can better detect liquid explosives:
The proposal calls for a shift of $20 million from the puffers to fund improvements in X-ray technology. After the upgrades, the X-ray machines would be able to take multiple images of the contents of carry-on bags, giving screeners an extra chance to detect suspicious items, including bottles or containers that might hold explosives, officials and experts said.
Machines used in U.S. airports today generally examine bags from only one angle. Government audits have shown that it is sometimes difficult for screeners to detect banned items or weapons, depending on where they are placed in a carry-on.
Security officials are seeking new technology to counter the threat of liquid explosives, a month after British authorities said they uncovered a plot to blow up transatlantic flights. The upgraded machines would not identify explosive compounds but would help screeners pick up shapes of items that could contain liquid explosives, officials said.
“What gives me the capability to find explosives now?” Kip Hawley, head of the Transportation Security Administration, asked in an interview. “The answer is X-rays. We’re looking at where we can get the biggest bang for the buck.”
The article also indicates that the puffer machines are not living up to expectations, and have had high maintenance costs and failure rates in the aviation environment – thus the rationale for the potential shift of funds.