oversight

Aviation Security: Commercially Available Advanced Explosives Detection Devices

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-04-24.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

       United States
GAO    General Accounting Office
       Washington, D.C. 20548

       Resources, Community,   and
       Economic Development    Division

      B-276675


      April 24, 1997


      The Honorable Wendell H. Ford
      Ranking Minority Member
      Subcommittee on Aviation
      Committee on Commerce, Science,
       and Transportation
      United States Senate

      Subject: Aviation Security: Commercial& Available Advanced Exnlosives
              Detection Devices

      Dear Senator Ford:

      As a result of the recommendations contained in the initial report by the White
      House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, also known as the Gore
      Commission, and subsequent appropriations by the Congress,’ the Federal
      Aviation Administration (FAA) is in the process of purchasing and installing a
      variety of advanced explosives detection devices at selected airports in the
      United States? By February 1998, FAA plans to have purchased and installed
      over $100 million worth of devices at some of the nation’s busiest airports.

      In August and September 1996, we testified on aviation security issues before
      the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and provided


      ‘Initial Renort to President Clinton, White House Commission on Aviation
      Safety and Security (Sept. 9, 1996). Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act,
      1997, P.L. 104-208, Sept. 30, 1996.
      ‘For purposes of this report, we defined an advanced explosives detection
      device as one that, in most cases, has an automatic alarm that signals the
      operator if potential explosives are detected. If the device does not have an
      automatic alarm, then it has some other advanced capabilities to provide more
      information to the operator, such as highlighting or color coding a potential
      explosive.
                                          GAO/WED-97-119R   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
                                                                                                ,- ,-

B-276675

the Committee with information about devices that were currently available or
under development for detecting explosives and the devices’ operational
capabilities.3 As requested, we are providing you with updated information on
the advanced explosives detection devices that are commercially available and
can be used to screen checked baggage, carry-on items, passengers, and cargo
and mail. Enclosures I through IV of this report provide information on these
devices and their underlying technologies, manufacturers, costs, capabilities,
and other related information.

You also asked that we review the tiancial, airport-related, and operational
issues associated with deploying detection technology at U.S. airports. Many
security initiatives have been undertaken since the July 1996 crash of TWA
Flight 800. In its final report of February 1997, the Gore Commission said that
it expected that the National Civil Aviation Review Commission would
consider a variety of options to pay for security measures; a report on funding
is expected to be made in the fall of 1997. In addition, FAA has directed that
the contractors installing the explosive detection devices gather data on the
effect that deploying these devices has on airport-related and operational
issues. As discussed with your office, we agreed to reassess the need for us to
 do further work on the financial and operational issues associated with
 deploying detection technology at U.S. airports on the basis of the final
 outcome of these two initiatives.

In summary, a number of advanced explosives detection devices are
commercially available that can increase the probability of detecting concealed
explosives. However, all of them have performance limitations.4 For example,
some devices can detect only certain explosives, while others have slow
baggage processing rates; others rely almost entirely on the skills of the
operators rather than on automatic akums. Despite their various performance
limitations, these devices can improve security while providing operational



3Aviation Securitv : Immediate Action Needed to Improve Secm-itv (GAO/T-
RCEDLNSIAD-96-237,Aug. 1, 1996) and Aviation Securitv: Oversight of
Initiatives Will Be Needed (C-GAO/T-RCEDINSIAD-96-20, Sept. 17, 1996). The
September testimony, which is classified, was presented before the Committee
in a closed-door hearing.

4We previously reported on the limitations in performance of explosives
detection devices and their operators in our testimony entitled Aviation
Securitv: Technolom’s Role in Addressing Vulnerabilities (GAO/T-RCED/NSIAD-
96-262, Sept. 19, 1996).

 2                                  GAO/WED-97-119R   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
B-276675

performance information that can be useful in improving the current or next
generation of devices.

The predominant technologies available for detecting the presence of explosive
materials are various types of X-rays, chemical trace detection, and
electromagnetic analyses. These technologies are incorporated into a variety
of devices used to examine checked baggage; carry-on items and electronic
equipment, such as personal computers; passengers; and cargo and mail.

Generally, X-ray devices operate by passing X-rays through screened items and
projecting an image of the contents being examined on a monitor. Potentially
explosive materials are identified by their density, average atomic number, and
appearance. The detection capabilities of these devices vary in terms of how
the X-ray systems function-for example, by providing cross-sectional images or
by using “reflected” energies lmown as backscatter. The devices also vary in
terms of whether the presence of potential explosives is signaled by an
automatic alarm or is manually identified by an operator. FAA has certified
one X-ray device for screening checked bags, the CTX 5000 SP, as meeting its
performance standard?

Chemical trace devices rely on the identification of the presence of explosive
vapors and residues that are associated with explosive materials. These
devices are also known as “sniffers” or “trace detectors.” Samples are obtained
through techniques such as using a wipe or a vacuum, examining a document
or some other item that has been handled by the passenger, or sampling air
gathered at walk-through portals. For each technique, the sample is analyzed
by a device to detect explosives. Most of these devices include an automatic
alarm when explosive materials are found.

Electromagnetic devices generally use radio frequency pulses that probe
baggage or other items to elicit unique responses that would be associated
with explosive materials. These devices generally include an automatic alarm
if the presence of explosives is detected.




5The details of FAA’s certification standard are classified. Generally, the
standard sets minimurn performance criteria for (1) the explosive substances to
be detected, (2) the probability of detection, by explosive, (3) the quantity of
explosive, and (4) the number of bags processed per hour. In addition, the
standard specifies the maximum allowable false alarm rate, by type of explosive
material.

 3                                   GAO/WED-97-119R   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
B-276675

AGENCY COMMENTS

We provided copies of a draft of this report to the Department of
Transportation and FAA for review and comment. FAA agreed with the facts
presented in this report and provided some suggested technical and clarifying
language. We have incorporated these changes as appropriate. The
Department did not provide any comments,

SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY

The information contained in this report is based on our previous work
involving security technology and has been updated to include devices that
have become commercially available since our testimonies in August and
September of 1996.(j A wide range of other devices, currently in various stages
of development for screening applications, were discussed in a previously
issued report7 Our work was conducted during February and March 1997 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

As requested, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no
further distribution of this report for 7 days. At that tune we will send copies
to appropriate congressional committees and make copies available to others
on request. If you or your staff should have any questions about explosives
detection technology, please call me at (202) 5123650. Major contributors to
this report were Michael Bollinger, Thomas Noone, and Marnie Sham.

Sincerely yours,




Gerald L. Dillingham    u
Associate Director, Transportation Issues

Enclosures - 5



6A list of Related GAO Products appears in enclosure V at the end of this
report.
7SeeTerrorism and Drug Traftickin~: Technologies for Detecting Explosives
and Narcotics (GAO/NSLAD/RCED-96-252,Sept. 4, 1996) for further details of
the various types of equipment under development.
 4                                   GAO/WED-97419R   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
    ENCLOSURE I                                                                                                                                  ENCLOSURE I


                                                            COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE
                                                     ADVANCED EXPLOSIVES DETECTION DEVICES

                                                             Application: Checked Baggage
q


                                                                                                Device’s characteristics, capabilities, and other
    Technology         Manufacturer                    Available devices          Unit price”   related information
    X-Ray
    Computerized       InVision Technologies, Inc.     CTX-5000 SP            $850,000 to $1    This is the only device certified by FAA. The system
    axial tomography   Foster City, CA                                               million    is based on computer technology from the medical
    (CAT scan)                                                                                  field that obtains a number of cross-sectional images
                                                                                                of a bag that are displayed on a monitor. The device
                                                                                                automatically alarms when potential explosives are
                                                                                                detected. However, it is relatively slow in processing
                                                                                                bags. As result, a certified system requires two
                                                                                                devices to meet FAA’s standard for processing a
                                                                                                specific number of bags per hour. Using a portion of
                                                                                                the $144.2 million appropriated in September 1996
                                                                                                for explosives detection devices, FAA recently
                                                                                                purchased 54 of these units, which will be deployed
                                                                                                at selected U.S. airports,




                                                                                                     GAO/RCED-97-119R   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
    ENCLOSURE I                                                                                                                      ENCLOSURE I


                                                                                     Device’s characteristics, capabilities, and other
    Technology          Manufacturer               Available devices   Unit price”   related information
    Advanced X-ray      Vivid Technologies, Inc.   H-l                   $250,000 Two different X-ray energies are used to determine
                        Waltham, MA                VIS                         to the densities and average atomic numbers of the
                                                   VIS-M                 $375,000 target material. These devices automatically alarm
                                                   VDS                            when potential explosives are detected. As part of
                                                                                  the $144.2 million appropriated in September 1996,
                        EG&G Astrophysics, Inc.    z-scan-7              $350,000 FAA plans to purchase 20 units from among these
                        Long Beach, CA             z-scan-12                      manufacturers, which will be deployed at selected
                                                                                  U.S. airports to test their on-line performance
                                                                                  capabilities.

                        Heimann Systems            Hi-Scan 1006OEDS     $300,000
                        Wiesbaden, Germany
    X-ray backscatter   AS&E, Inc.                 Z-Backscatter       $75,000 to Backscatter detects reflected X-rays, which provides
                        Billerica, MA               1OlZ                $100,000 an image on a monitor that highlights organic
                                                    1OlZZ                         materials, such as explosives. These devices do not
                                                                                  automatically alarm and therefore require operators
                                                                                  to interpret the images for every screened object.
    Electromagnetic
    Quadrupole          Quantum Magnetics          Q-Scan 1000          $340,000 It uses radio frequency pulses that probe bags to
    resonance           San Diego, CA                                            elicit unique responses from explosives. It is a
                                                                                 nonimaging technology that provides chemically
                                                                                 specific detection and automatically alarms when
                                                                                 explosives are detected. Using a portion of the
                                                                                 September 1996 appropriated funds, FAA plans to
                                                                                 purchase 5 of these devices, which will be tested at
                                                                                 selected U.S. airports.




6
                                                                                         GAO/RCED-97-119R   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
    ENCLOSURE I                                                                                                                                   ENCLOSURE I

aPrices indicated are a range of costs or an approximate cost to purchase a unit. The price range on some units may vary widely because of options that may
be added to a device. For example, some devices can be outfitted to detect both explosives and drugs.




7
                                                                                                       GAO/RCED-SF119R   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
    ENCLOSURE II                                                                                                                                     ENCLOSURE II

                                                           COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE
                                                    ADVANCED EXPLOSIVES DETECTION DEVICES

                                                        Application: Carry-on Items/Electronics


                                                                                                Device’s characteristics, capabilities, and other related
         Technology   Manufacturer                   Available devices             Unit price a information

     Trace
     Ion Mobility     Barringer Instruments, Inc.    Ionscan 400                    $45,000to IMS devices operate by measuring the mobility of
     Spectroscopy     New Providence, NJ                                              $50,000 various molecules through a gas in an electrical.field.
     UWb                                                                                      Trace samples are gathered using a wipe or a vacuum
                      Ion Track Instruments, Inc.    Itemiser                         $55,000 and then analyzed by the device, which takes
                      Wilmington, MA                                                          approximately 5 seconds for analysis. These devices
                                                                                              provide chemical-specific detection and automatically
                      Graseby Security               Plastec                          $45,000 alarm when explosives are detected. The devices are
                      He&s, UK                                                                portable with low false alarm rates.

                      CPAD Technologies, Inc.        Sirius                           $70,000
                      Ottawa, Ontario, Canada        Orion                            $90,000
     Combination      Thermedics Detection, Inc.     Egis                           $30,000 to These devices utilize a chemical separation and
     Technologiesb    Chelmsford, MA                 Rampart                         $170,000 identification technique used in advanced forensic
                                                                                               Iaboratories (known as chromatography and
                                                                                               chemiluminescence), The devices are highly sensitive
                                                                                               and have chemical-specific capabilities. They
                                                                                               automatically alarm when explosives are detected.
                                                                                               The devices are portable with a low false alarm rate.




8
                                                                                                    GAOiRCED-B.7-11BR   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
ENCLOSURE II                                                                                                                                           ENCLOSURE II


                                                                                                     Device’s characteristics, capabilities, and other related
      Technology         Manufacturer                   Available devices             Unit price a   information
 Electromagnetic
  Quadrupole             Quantum Magnetics              Package Scanner                   $65,000    These devices work on radio frequency pulses that
  Resonance              San Diego, CA                   QED-600                                     probe bags to elicit unique responses from explosives.
                                                                                                     The devices provide chemically specific detection and
                                                                                                     automatically alarm when they detect explosives.

aPrices indicated are a range of costs or an approximate cost to purchase a unit. The price range on some units may vary widely because of options that may
be added to a device. For example, some devices can be outfitted to detect both explosives and drugs.

bUsing a portion of the $144.2 million appropriated in September 1996, FAA recently purchased a mix of 30 devices that use IMS or combination technologies.
FAA plans to purchase another 459 devices among these two types of technologies from the various manufacturers.




                                                                                                        GAO/RCED-97-119R   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
ENCLOSURE III                                                                                                             ENCLOSURE III

                                              COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE
                                     ADVANCED EXPLOSIVES DETECTION DEVICES

                                          Application: Passenger Screening


                                                                                Device’s characteristics, capabilities, and other
     Technology      Manufacturer       Available devices        Unit pricea    related information

 X-Ray
 X-ray backscatter   AS&E               BodySearch                    $150,000 This device uses a low level X-ray producing a
                     Billerica, MA                                             backscatter image capable of detecting organic and
                                                                               non-organic materials. The device is nonintrusive,
                                                                               which allows the passenger to remain fully clothed
                                                                               while being scanned. The device has been approved
                                                                               by the Food and Drug Administration and the
                                                                               Department of Health and Human Services in
                                                                               connection with safety issues and X-ray levels. It is
                                                                               currently in use at several foreign Iocations, but
                                                                               none has been deployed in the U.S. The device
                                                                               does not automatically alarm but relies on an
                                                                               operator’s interpretation of image.




10
                                                                                   GAOIRCED-@7-11BR   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
ENCLOSURE III                                                                                                                                ENCLOSURE III


                                                                                                    Device’s characteristics, capabilities, and other
 Technology              Manufacturer                   Available devices          Unit price”      related information
 Trace
 Ion Mobility            Barringer Instruments, Inc.    Token System                   $55,000 to Using a document or token handled by a passenger,
 Spectroscopy (IMS)      New Providence, NJ             Document Scanner                 $59,000 the device can analyze the item for the presence of
                                                                                                  residual explosives left by a person’s hand. Both
                                                                                                  devices can automatically detect the presence of
                                                                                                  explosives.

                         CPAD Technologies, Inc.         NOVA                          $250,00 to NOVA is a walk-through portal device that samples
                         Ottawa, Ontario, Canada                                        $350,000 air using gas chromatography and IMS. While
                                                                                                  passing through the portal, the device captures an
                                                                                                  image of the person being screened. This device
                                                                                                  has been deployed overseas but not domestically. It
                                                                                                  automatically alarms when explosives are detected.


“Prices indicated are a range of costs or an approximate cost to purchase a unit. The price range on some units may vary widely because of options that
may be added to a device. For example, some devices can be outfitted to detect both explosives and drugs.




11
                                                                                                        GAO/RCED-97-1lBR   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
ENCLOSURE IV                                                                                                                                         ENCLOSURE IV

                                                           COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE
                                                    ADVANCED EXPLOSIVES DETECTION DEVICES

                                                               Application: Cargo and Mail


                                                                                                      Device’s characteristics, capabilities, and other
     Technology           Manufacturer                   Available devices          Unit price”       related information
     X-Ray
     High energy fured-   AS&E                           Pallet Search                 $900,000 to This device relies on an operator’s interpretation of
     site system with     Billerica, MA                                                  $950,000 X-ray images and does not have an automatic
     backscatter                                                                                   alarm but can be equipped with an auto alarm as
                                                                                                   an option. The device can be used to screen bulk
                                                                                                   mail and containerized cargo. This device has not
                                                                                                   been deployed at any U.S. airports to date.
  Trace
  Ion Mobility            CPAD Technologies, Inc.        Mail Scanner                        $75,000 This device automatically alarms when explosives
  Spectroscopy (IMS)      Ottawa, Ontario, Canada                                                    are detected. It operates under the same principal
                                                                                                     as the manufacturer’s Orion trace detection device,
                                                                                                     which is used for screening carry-on items. It can
                                                                                                     be used to scan mail bags in bulk or individual
                                                                                                     mail pieces.

aPrices indicated are a range of costs or an approximate cost to purchase a unit, The price range on some units may vary widely because of options that
may be added to a device. For example, some devices can be outfitted to detect both explosives and drugs.




12
                                                                                                         GAO/RCED-97-119R   Available   Explosives    Detection   Devices
ENCLOSURE V                                                                        ENCLOSURE V



                             RELATED GAO PRODUCTS

Aviation Securitv: Technologv’s Role in Addressing: VulnerabiIities (GAO/T-
RCED/NSIAD-96-262, Sept. 19, 1996).

Aviation Securitv: Urgent Issues Need to Be Addressed (GAO/T-RCED/NSIAD-96-251,
Sept. 11, 1996).

Terrorism and Drug Trafficking Technologies for Detecting Emlosives and Narcotics
(GAO/NSIAD/RCED-96-252, Sept. 4, 1996).

Aviation Securitv: Immediate Action Needed to Imm-ove Securitv (GAO/T-
RCED/NSIAD-96-237 Aug. 1, 1996).

Terrorism and Drug Trafiicking: Threats and Roles of Emlosives and Narcotics
Detection Technologv (GAO/NSIAD/RCED-96-76BR, Mar. 27, 1996).

Aviation Securitv: DeveloDment of New Securitv Technologv Has Not Met
Emectations (GAO/RCED-94142, May 19, 1994).




(341520)


13                                         GAO/RCED-97-119R   Available   Explosives   Detection   Devices
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