WASHINGTON (CBS News/CBSDC/AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Monday reassigned the leader of the Transportation Security Administration and directed the agency to revise airport security procedures, retrain officers and retest screening equipment in airports across the U.S.
The TSA’s acting administrator, Melvin Carraway, is being shifted to a different job in the Department of Homeland Security. Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield will lead the agency until a new administrator is appointed.
In April, President Barack Obama nominated Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to be the agency’s next permanent administrator, CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues points out. But he’s still awaiting confirmation from the Senate.
Monday’s directives come after the agency’s inspector general briefed Johnson on a report analyzing vulnerabilities in airport security — specifically, the ability to bring prohibited items through TSA checkpoints.
Johnson would not describe the results of the classified report, but said he takes the findings “very seriously.”
Investigators with the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General (IG) went undercover and were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, Pegues reports. The IG’s report found that TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests.
They were conducted by what the department calls “Red Teams,” Pegues adds. The team members pose as passengers trying to beat the system.
In a statement, Johnson said, “The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security.”
Johnson said he had directed TSA to take several corrective steps, including immediately revising standard operating procedures for screening; conducting training for all transportation security officers, and intensive training for all supervisory personnel; retesting and re-evaluating the screening equipment currently in use at airports across the United States and continuing to conduct random covert testing.
Johnson said that in the longer term, he has directed TSA and the Department of Homeland Security to “examine adopting new technologies to address the vulnerabilities identified by the Inspector General’s testing.”
The Homeland Security chief said that over the last year, “TSA screened a record number of passengers at airports in the United States, and … seized a record number of prohibited items.”
Still, he said, the agency was “constantly testing and adapting the systems we have in place.”
Johnson also called on the Senate to confirm Obama’s choice to lead the TSA, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Pete Neffenger.
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