TSA axes Dec. 31 screening deadline

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has decided to push back its December 31 deadline for 100-percent screening on cargo bound for the U.S. The news comes from a press release issued by The International Air Cargo Association, which was also verified by Brandon Fried, executive director of the U.S. Airforwarders Association. He called the TSA’s decision “no surprise.”

“The TSA issued [the decision] to us [on October 4] under secure cover. They basically told us, ‘we’re sending you something you can’t talk about,’” said Fried, who let members of the Airforwarders Association know of the TSA’s change of heart, but couldn’t release it to the public. Similarly, other industry shareholders were sent news of the decision by the TSA.

By the time Fried spoke with Air Cargo World on October 6, the news had leaked out, leading Fried to call the decision “pretty much common knowledge.”

Fried said he thinks the decision was made because the TSA has had a  difficult time verifying the security screening procedures of foreign entities. He said TSA officials are going to tell Congress and members of the air transport community that they were overly optimistic about their initial deadline.

TIACA Chairman Michael Steen commended the TSA on its efforts to work with the industry toward an achievable goal.

“We fully recognize [the TSA’s] intention to enhance existing air cargo security programs, but it is showing the foresight to listen to, and work with, the industry toward this objective,” he said in a statement. “This is the result of TSA requesting comment from the air cargo industry on the feasibility of a December 31, 2011, deadline and its careful consideration of the advice it received.”

The TSA’s Jim Fotenos explained the reasoning behind his organization’s decision in an email received soon after the news broke.

“After careful consideration of the industry’s comments and a thorough examination of the unique challenges facing international cargo screening, TSA has decided not to implement the proposed deadline,” he wrote in the email.

“TSA will continue to work closely with our private sector and international partners to improve air cargo security and continue to adapt our risk-based screening protocols to address evolving threats.” As of press time, TSA officials have yet to set a new deadline for the screening of U.S.-bound cargo.

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