WASHINGTON (RNN) - Resources have flooded efforts to make flying safer since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack - which is why it was such a surprise when a knife made its way past security in 2011 after getting the "OK" from airport security officers.
The security breach was just one of a number of highly publicized slip-ups made by airport security in the first half of 2011.
In February, a passenger found his way into a restricted airport area with no prior screening, leading to a six-hour shut down of the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Just 14 miles outside Manhattan, the airport is one of the busiest in the country.
Earlier that same month, a passenger bypassed security screening by simply walking through an unmanned disability gate.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has vowed to beef up security measures. However, little has been done nationally as the group works through the long and arduous rulemaking process.
On Wednesday, a TSA official appeared before a House subcommittee to explain why the department has not made more changes to better protect American flyers in light of the recent report.
A report released by the office of the Inspector General earlier this month found that although corrective action was taken for the most outrageous security breaches, only 53 percent of reported security issues were met with some kind of action to prevent similar breeches.
"We must make certain that the billions of taxpayer dollars we spend screening passengers is not wasted if systemic vulnerabilities exist through the back doors of our airports that could lead to an attack," said Mike Rogers, R-AL, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security.
John P. Sammon, assistant administration for transportation sector network management with the TSA, assured House members that the group is working on comprehensive new rules to close the security gap.
He said while the new rules to address security loopholes go through the approval process, the TSA has upped its number of inspections and stepped up its training procedures.
The report from the Inspector General's office found a majority of security breaches at Newark were improperly reported, partially because the TSA doesn't provide oversight to make sure breaches are acknowledged and resolved.
Just 42 percent of security breaches were properly reported to higher-ups outside Newark.
"We knew that there were problems … but this was very eye opening," said Mike Rogers, R-AL, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security.
The TSA has worked on clearing up the most egregious of security issues.
The TSA officer who allowed a carry-on bag to pass through screening with a knife in it was given a five-day suspension.
The officers who failed to properly screen the man who walked into a restricted security area were given a notice of breach of rules from the Port Authority Police Department.
The officer who left the disability gate unmanned was given a three-day suspension, while her supervisors were given letters of reprimand. A broken latch on the gate was fixed.
However, the report indicated that much more needs to be done to shore up security at airports. Suggestions from the report were redacted because of their ties to national security, but a representative from the Inspector General's office said the TSA was working to meet them.
The report came after Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, asked the Inspector General to review security procedures in place at Newark after the terminal was shut down.
"The recent attempt by al Qaeda to take down a U.S.-bound airliner showed us that terrorists are still determined to exploit aviation security gaps in order to attack America," Lautenberg said. "Newark Liberty Airport and airports around the country have made security improvements, but it is clear that much more needs to be done."
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