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 _’ Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA and Mastercard credit cards are accepted, also. 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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)