technologies that might be extended or modified for use in securing other transportation modes.

Prior to the terrorist bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, the focus of airline passenger security checkpoints was the detection and interdiction of metallic weapons, either carried on the person or concealed within carry-on items. Since the introduction in 1994 of certified explosive detection systems for checked luggage, a technology based on computed x-ray tomography, explosive threat detection has significantly improved.

While potential attacks on all modes of transportation are of concern, the committee believes that the U.S. air transportation system continues to have a high priority for counterterrorism resources, both because of its economic importance and because of the intensified public perception of risk following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provided the National Research Council (NRC) with the following statement of task for this study:

This study will explore opportunities for technology to address national needs for transportation security. While the primary role of the committee is to respond to the government’s request for assessments in particular applications, the committee may offer advice on specific matters as required. The committee will: (1) identify potential applications for technology in transportation security with a focus on likely threats; (2) evaluate technology approaches to threat detection, effect mitigation, and consequence management; and (3) assess the need for research, development, and deployment to enable implementation of new security technologies. These tasks will be done in the context of current, near-term, and long-term requirements.


The committee will perform the following specific tasks:

  1. Identify potential applications for technology in transportation security with a focus on likely threats derived from threat analyses that drive security system requirements. Review security system developments structured to meet the changing threat environment. Assess government and commercial industry plans designed to address these threats.

  2. Evaluate technology approaches to threat detection, effect mitigation, and consequence management. Delineate the benefits of the insertion of new technologies into existing security systems. Evaluate the trade-offs between effectiveness and cost, including the cost of changing the security system architectures.

  3. Assess the need for research, development, and deployment to enable implementation of new security technologies. Review and assess the potential benefit of existing and advanced detection technologies, including scanning technologies, sensing technologies, and the use of computer modeling and databases. Review and assess emerging approaches to effect mitigation and consequence management.

An overarching goal of this committee has been to provide timely reports that meet the technology-evaluation priorities of the Transportation Security Administration



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