TSA begins airport vulnerability assessment

 - January 27, 2010, 6:36 AM

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced January 13 that it is launching its General Aviation Airports Vulnerability Assessment as mandated by a congressional law.

The 9/11 Commission Recommendation Act of 2007 required the agency to develop and implement a standardized threat and vulnerability assessment program for approximately 3,000 GA airports that have a runway of at least 2,000 feet and those near major metropolitan areas, high-value targets or close to standing prohibited areas such as the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.

The National Association of State Aviation Officials (Nasao) is assisting the TSA in the survey, which is short and said to be easy to complete. It allows general aviation airport operators to self-assess the current level of security at their airports. It helps identify security strengths and areas that might need improvement.

Nasao was one of the leaders of the aviation community that wrote the proposal that became the TSA’s “Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports” in 2004. The survey is intended to help TSA stakeholders and planners assess security needs and vulnerabilities and provide funding to improve security.

“Many Nasao members–the states–have been leading the way in providing adequate and appropriate general aviation security standards without onerous restrictions or unnecessary regulations,” said Nasao president and CEO Henry Ogrodzinski. “Therefore, it’s logical for the association and the states to assist the TSA in promoting and distributing the vulnerability assessment. It’s important the general aviation community continue to protect its aircraft and airports from misuse or abuse.”

Survey Results Not Publicly Available

The TSA said the threat assessment is not based on any “specific, credible information to suggest an imminent threat” to homeland security or general aviation. “Minor security breaches such as vandalism or theft at GA airports can have a negative public view of security at our airports,” according to the agency, which added that it “has a responsibility to display our best effort in keeping the public safe, aircraft secured and our operations protected by providing security for our GA airports via the most efficient means possible.”

Airport managers have 60 days to complete the survey, and the results will be made available to participating airports approximately 30 days after the survey’s closing period.

“AOPA expressed concerns to the TSA early in the process of the need for the information collected by the TSA to remain confidential and not be used against an airport,” said Brittney Miculka, AOPA manager of security. “AOPA supports dedicated funding for those airports choosing to make their facilities more secure but remains strongly opposed to the requirements being unilaterally imposed.”

The TSA stated that the responses to the assessment are protected from public disclosure as sensitive security information. No individual airport data or rating will be released outside the agency.