TSA Coming Up Short on Cargo Checks

USA Today’s Thomas Frank writes:

A plan to check every package of business cargo for explosives before it is loaded onto passenger airplanes faces major obstacles, according to a government report scheduled for release Wednesday.

The report by Congress’ Government Accountability Office says the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may not have enough inspectors nor adequate equipment to guarantee all cargo is checked for bombs.

Frank and the GAO study are right to raise questions about whether the Transportation Security Administration can meet Congress’s August 2010 deadline for scanning all cargo carried on passenger planes. There are two bottlenecks, both at TSA.

First, the agency does not have enough inspectors to verify that freight forwarders and other handlers are complying with its scanning mandates.

Second, although large-enough scanning machines exist and are in service at some airports in Europe and Asia, the TSA has yet to certify any for use at U.S. airports. The cargo industry is scrambling to comply, but until TSA gets its act together, meeting the deadline will be very difficult.