A Transportation Security Administration agent performs a pat-down check on an airline passenger in Phoenix.
By Jeff Topping, Getty Images
From July to October, screeners at 75% of the 450 airports in the USA didn't get the three hours of weekly training required by the government, says the audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Most of the training is missed because screeners on understaffed shifts are needed at checkpoints and can't take time away from their normal duties, says the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.
The report also blames screener training centers that don't have high-speed Internet connections.
Without such access, screeners are "severely limited" in tapping into the Transportation Security Administration's online training programs, the report says.
The TSA had planned in late 2003 to have high-speed Internet access at 350 airports.
But last year, the agency said it "did not have the resources to reach this goal," according to the GAO.
The most recent records show Internet training was available at 109 airports — mostly larger ones — that employ 25,000 of TSA's 45,000 screeners, the GAO says.
Previous government audits have linked insufficient training to screeners' failures to detect weapons undercover agents try to sneak through checkpoints.
"Weaknesses and vulnerabilities continue to exist," the GAO said. " Comprehensive and frequent training is key to a screener's ability to detect."
The TSA has acknowledged that airports are hard-pressed to provide screeners with the training they need to analyze X-ray images and to learn the latest security techniques, the GAO says.
The administration plans to address shortfalls by restructuring its workforce of 45,000 screeners. Some of the screener workforce will be shifted to busier airports.
More than 120 airport security directors told the GAO there was not enough time for screeners to get training during work hours, mostly because of staffing shortages.
Airports have faced staffing shortages because of the amount of time it takes to hire screeners and because of the high number of screeners who miss work due to on-the-job injuries.