The ambitious plan by the US Transportation Security Administration to screen all 3.5 million tonnes of cargo transported annually on passenger airliners in the US may come up short, according to a report by Congress’ Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report says the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may not have enough inspectors nor adequate equipment to meet the August 2010 Congressional deadline to screen all cargo transported in the bellies of airliners for explosives. The TSA and cargo groups “face a number of challenges in meeting the screening mandate,” says the report. The TSA’s plan calls for the burden for most cargo screening to fall on the individual shippers themselves, with federal inspectors overseeing the process. TSA spokesman Greg Soule said inspectors are being hired rapidly and a study is underway to determine how many inspectors are needed. The Homeland Security Department, which includes the TSA, “is committed to staffing the most effective inspector workforce possible,” he said. A further problem lies in the lack of equipment needed to scan cargo containers used in the belly holds of widebody airliners. The TSA has set an interim deadline for cargo screening, under which 50 per cent of cargo on passenger planes was to be screened by 1 February. The TSA said it met that deadline, but the congressional report said “the agency cannot yet verify” the requirement is being met.
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