Strategic improvements to TSA SPOT program
Cotton, Brent A.
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This study of Transportation Security Administration’s Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program analyzes the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) recommendations for improvement, as well as strengths and weaknesses of the program not specifically addressed in previous assessments. Any analysis of SPOT must be robust, as it represents one of the few threat agnostic countermeasures not limited by technology and finite detection capabilities. The GAO has recommended Congress withhold funding from SPOT until further evidence of effectiveness can be produced. The first portion of this study revisits the analysis of GAO and OIG in their respective reports. The GAO audits rely on meta-analyses that suggest human lie detection is no more successful than flipping a coin. This study assesses those claims, and reveals some contextual and analytical limitations of the claims. The OIG report offers similar claims, but adds additional insight into critical strategic areas. The second portion of this study focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the SPOT program, including an analysis of several GAO and OIG conclusions. Many of the recommendations were operational in nature, and provided little strategic direction to improve the relevance, effectiveness, and credibility of the program. Analyzing strengths and weaknesses provides insight into more strategic recommendations that may improve the security value of SPOT.
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