TSA Layered of security

TSA Layered security

Since September 11, 2001, layered security had been developed by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in against terrorism (Thomas,2003 1). The purpose of layered security is to ensure that the air transportation system is being protected against any kind of terrorism. When illustrated in a diagram, it resembles an “S” shape in which each individual layer plays a role in preventing or detecting terrorist attack in any stages to occur. It has 20 different layers to form a forbidden and complex system for individual who is travelling domestically and internationally via air; it is also being applied to people associated within the airport secured area to receive certain layers of security, ensuring that they are not a threat. This enhances a much stronger security system to detect and defend the possibility of attempt in terrorism in aviation.

Diagram of TSA layered security

TSA Layered Security (image embedded from TSA Blog on 26th July 2010)

The 20 layers of TSA security (TSA, 20102 & TSA Blog, 20103)

1) Intelligence
The duty of an Intelligence officer is determine any threats to aviation security. They work with the Federal government and its international partners such as customer and boarder protection and the Joint Terrorism Task Force in order to determine current and future issues on aviation security.

2) Customs and border protection
CBP is one of the largest and most complex departments from Department of Homeland Security. It function is to secure and facilitate trades and passenger travel against the U.S. immigration and drug regulations to keep terrorists and weapons away from the U.S. nations

3) Joint Terrorism Task Force
Joint Terrorism Task Force is formed by the local residents and agencies to protect the region airport’s security and make sure that it is are up to the national standards. These agencies include FBI, immigrations and customs enforcement and many more.

4) No Fly list and Passenger Pre Screening
No Fly list was created after September 2001 in replacing the old passenger pre screening system – Computer Assist Passenger Pre screening System before 9/11. It occurs during the profiling process which is developed and monitored by the U.S. governments to create a list of people who are banned from travelling in or out the U.S. on any commercial aircraft. People who are being listed in the No Fly List are considered to be higher degree of threat in aviation security. The list has grown from 100 in 2001 to approximately 3000.

5) Crew Vetting
Airline crew members need to submit their personal details such as name, country of residence, date of birth. Pilots and engineers are required to provide their license number for future reference. The process is carried out by Security Directives (SDs) and Emergency Amendments (EAs).

6) VIPR -Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response
VIPR teams work with the regional security department and police force to increase the existing resources in order to maximise the capabilities of detection and against any unlawful terrorism plans in the future.

7) Canines
TSA has more than 500 teams with the local law enforcement agencies working in 70 airports and 14 mass transit system to detect possible explosive substances at the airports perimeter and interior.

8) Behaviour Detection Officers
BDOs operate at the security checkpoint to detect passengers who behave physical and physiological suspiciously.

9) Travel Document Checker
Passengers need to hand their boarding pass and ID to a TSA personnel when entering to the departure immigration. Anyone who failed to provide a valid travel document with photo identification would require further inspections.

10)Checkpoint/Transportation Security Officers
Checkpoint counters are placed in the terminal before passengers board the scheduled flight to ensure that “prohibited items" are not being carried on to an aircraft by anyone.

11) Checked baggage
All checked in luggage which go into the cargo compartment are required to undergo X ray screening and explosive trace screening.

12) Transportation security inspectors
Transportation security inspectors act as a safeguard to against any level of threat at commercial airports and cargo area.

13) Random Employee Screening
Any individual who has access to the airport’s secure areas are subject to random screening. These include random daily checks as well as thorough background screening.

14) Bomb Appraisal Officers
BAOs perform as an advanced security process in which helps other personnel increase their abilities at the checkpoints. They have operational experience in the military Explosive Ordnance Disposal units or other law enforcement bomb squads.

15) Federal Air marshal Service
FAMs duties are similar to the VIPR; they are being specifically trained to work in an aircraft. except they are usually undercover and posses fire arms on board.

16) Federal Flight Deck officers
Pilots and other approved flight crews are trained under the TSA to carry a firearm during flight operations

17) Trained Flight Crew
All cabin crews are recommended by to learn how to self defence, in case assaults occur during the flight. It is known as Crew Member self defence course which offered by TSA.

18) Law Enforcement Officers
Usually known as police officers, these individual are often armed and assist with the security of the airport by arresting or suppressing individual who display negative behaviour.

19) Hardened Cockpit Door
After 9/11, all thee aircraft cockpit doors are required to be hardened to provide an extra layer of prevention of terrorism.

20) Passengers
It is the last line of defence in the system; Passengers are required to undergo a number of screening processes once they have entered into the security checkpoint. These processes include X ray, metal detector, trace explosive detector and maybe even a pat down search if he/she appears to be suspicious by the officers.

Advantages of the system

There are numbers of advantages to have a strong system of layered security. Main reason is to protect all parties involving in the operation away from threats. Below contains a brief description for each party in the operation:

It cooperates closely with airports which are chosen as the departure region. This also contributes towards to passengers/ customer’s willingness to travel with specific airlines due to the rates of accident and the culture of the airline will affect their psychological perspectives.

Passenger is the last line of defence in the system, once the threat is detected at the airport, the chances of threats occur during the flight would reduced. Although customer services and price of the airfares are the major concerns when deciding between which airlines should be taken on travel; however, the level of safety and security have also played an important factors in contributing toward to the final decision. Passengers would rather pay extra to travel on an airline which has fewer rates of accidents.

Airports are closely working together with airlines toward the highest level of security in the area. New technology has played an important part in airport security in maximising the overwhelmed ideas from terrorism. Backscatter X ray, explosives trace-detection portal machine and millimetre wave scanner are examples which high innovative technology has implemented in the system.

Disadvantages of the system

Although layered security looks like a good system to protect the industry from terrorism, there are reasons which have led inconveniences and troubles to airlines, airports and passengers, this have caused the system to fail for not once, but many time in the past decade or even after September 11,2001.

It is extremely costly for airline to take all the responsibility toward the system of these layers. From the marketing perspective of an airline, they would rather use the available resources on innovations, product developments, services and training as security does not appeal as significant as these factors.

The lack of public commitment on aviation security, many passengers being paranoid due to the aftermaths of the inefficient security, causing flight delays, missed flight, being trapped in the check point area for a long period of time. Aviation security has not been the best activity of air travel that a passenger would experience.

Due to the extremely costly machines and lack of government funds on the developments and implementations, many airports have failed the primarily purpose of layered security. Click here to see how this layered of security can be unfolded.

1. Thomas, A.R. (2003). Aviation Insecurity-The New Challenges of Air Travel.
2. Transportation Security Administration. (2010). Layers of Security. Retrieved from TSA on 25th July 2010
3. Transportation Security Administration Blog. (2010) Layered Security. Retrieved from TSA Blog on 25th July 2010

Want to know more?

Sweet, K. M. (2009).
Aviation and airport security: terrorism and safety concerns. Boca Raton. a book about Aviation Security

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