GAO spokesman Stephen Lord notes that the TSA does a good job of keeping records, but doesn’t know how to use data it collects. “When you get so busy deploying the dogs, managing it on a day-to-day basis, sometimes you forget,” Lord says. “And that was our point. Here you have these nuggets of information, why don’t you use them?”
The GAO recommended that the TSA regularly analyze program data and determine the effectiveness of its screening program before training or deploying any more passenger screening canines.
Furton has some sympathy for the TSA’s position. He points out that some of the problems the agency’s canine programs face are similar to what the canine detection industry as a whole is dealing with. There is too much information and data on how the dogs should be trained and used, but not enough people are analyzing that data. TSA is collecting the information in a standard way, he notes.
“Programs like the TSA program—the fact that they have moved toward standardization of how they do things by collecting information, that’s a positive,” Furton says. “I think it’s a sign that the industry in general is moving in the right direction, moving towards the continuous improvement process. It needs to take that last step towards closing the loop, using the information and making sure that if there are certification rates that are not what they should be, that they use the data to find out how to improve that.”
In a response to the GAO report, the TSA sent a statement to Security Management saying that the agency was taking some corrective action. Beginning in March 2013, the TSA said it had plans to improve functionality and reporting capabilities addressing a GAO recommendation.
The statement notes, “The National Canine Program is executing a new training and assessment initiative designed to identify optimal passenger screening canine working zones for the 120 teams that were authorized for deployment by the end of Fiscal Year 2013. By February 2013, TSA will [have completed] passenger screening canine effectiveness assessments at Miami, Oklahoma City, and Washington Dulles airports...”