Review of the Terrorist Screening Center's
Efforts to Support the Secure Flight Program
(Redacted for Public Release)
Audit Report 05-34
Office of the Inspector General
Upon full implementation, the Secure Flight program will be the first time the government will routinely screen all domestic air travelers. As a result, information about millions of domestic travelers will be collected and compared to the consolidated watch list of terrorist information. This process will require high standards of data accuracy and information safeguards.
The TSC has a significant role in Secure Flight, including helping in the development of the overall process flow for the program, assisting in the design of the information system architecture, establishing the roles of key stakeholders, and ensuring that the new screening process allows for an appropriate law enforcement response to encounters with known or suspected terrorists. However, the implementation of the Secure Flight program at both the TSA and the TSC has been hindered by project delays and uncertainty about project scope, logistics, and the resources needed to support the program's mission.
The TSA has repeatedly adjusted the implementation date for Secure Flight, first from April 2005 to August 2005, and most recently to September 2005. Moreover, the TSA does not currently have a definitive plan for the number of airlines and related passenger records that will be included in the various phases of program implementation. The TSA's shifting of program scope and critical milestones has also affected the TSC's ability to adequately plan for fulfilling its role in the Secure Flight program. In addition, although the TSA and TSC describe its current relationship as "a positive partnership," they have had to overcome communication and coordination obstacles, including organizational changes at the TSA and the TSA's initial development and testing of program requirements without the involvement of the TSC.
In our review of the TSC's plans for implementing its Secure Flight responsibilities, we determined that most of its efforts are on track to meet a projected launch date of September 2005. Specifically, the TSC has designed its necessary electronic connections to accommodate data flow, developed new processes to facilitate law enforcement response to encounters with individuals who are a match against the consolidated terrorist watch list, and is on schedule for testing its newly established systems and procedures.
However, the TSC has not tracked its costs that are directly in support of the Secure Flight program and did not have a Secure Flight-specific spending plan. Therefore, the TSC cannot accurately estimate the added costs for the Secure Flight initiative. The TSC's difficulty in developing such an estimate is further exacerbated by the TSA's failure to specifically define the scope of each implementation phase. As a result, the TSC has been unable to adequately project its resource requirements for responding to the expected increase in workload resulting from Secure Flight.
Although we are unable to specifically quantify the TSC's financial needs, we believe that the TSC needs enhancement of its current base funding to accomplish its mission-critical functions. According to the TSC, it has been forced to delay the implementation of security measures, database enhancements, and quality control improvements to provide support for the launch of Secure Flight. TSC officials informed us that such delays will impact the accuracy, completeness, thoroughness, and security of the consolidated watch list information.
In sum, the TSC has faced difficulties in trying to support a program that has several critical undefined parameters. The TSC has little certainty of the start date of Secure Flight, the volume of inquiries expected and the resulting number of resources required to respond, the quality of data it will need to analyze, and the specific details of the phased-in approach for taking the program from "pre-operational testing" in September 2005 to full operational capability in FY 2007.
To help the TSC more accurately identify its funding requirements and handle its responsibilities under the Secure Flight Program, we provide five recommendations for the TSC.
We recommend that the TSC: