As part of DHS’s mission to protect the nation’s critical energy sector pipeline systems that are prime targets of terrorists such as Al Qaeda and its associated movements, the Transportation Security Administration’s Pipeline Security Division (PSD) has been tasked to assess the risk and prioritize efforts to help strengthen pipeline security across the United States. But while PSA has identified the 100 most critical pipeline systems and developed pipeline risk assessment model based on threat, vulnerability and consequence, it nevertheless “could improve the model’s consequence component and better prioritize its [security risk assessment] efforts,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded in the report of its recent audit of PSD’s pipeline infrastructure security efforts. In “Pipeline Security: TSA Has Taken Actions to Help Strengthen Security, but Could Improve Priority-Setting and Assessment Processes,” GAO said that “the consequence component takes into account the economic impact of a possible pipeline attack, but not other possible impacts such as public health and safety, as called for in [DHS’s] risk management guidance. PSD plans to improve its model by adding more vulnerability and consequence data, but has no time frames for doing so.” GAO reviewed PSD’s risk assessment process and performance measures and observed 14 PSD reviews and inspections. The government watchdog agency recommended that TSA, among other things, establish time frames for improving risk model data, document its method for scheduling reviews, and develop a plan for transmitting recommendations to operators.

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