A new direction: ICAO’s Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP)


The establishment of the USAP is a key element in ICAO’s response to global civil aviation security threats. USAP audits provide States with the information they require in order to make informed and effective decisions on how to improve their aviation security and oversight systems.

ICAO’s Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP) is widely recognized for its promotion and enhancement of global aviation security. The Programme has created targeted  assistance activities, and provided States with advice, guidance and recommendations to enhance their existing aviation security systems and structures. Additionally, an important side benefit is that the Programme allows for the targeting of assistance activities, and provides States with advice, guidance and recommendations to assist in enhancing their existing aviation security systems and structures . This helps to further enable the global harmonization of the interpretation and application of ICAO Annex 17 – Security Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), and the security-related provisions of Annex 9 – Facilitation.

ICAO has continuously worked to enhance the quality and efficiency of the Programme. The USAP has now evolved into an innovative, dynamic, and tailored approach to security auditing: the Continuous Monitoring Approach (USAP-CMA) specific to aviation security. The USAP-CMA incorporates a risk-based approach, using various key parameters to determine the type, scope, priority and frequency of audit and monitoring activities.

Development of the USAP-CMA

As early as 2010, the ICAO Secretariat began developing plans for the future of the USAP based on observations from its study group.

Based on this group’s feedback and recommendations, it was determined that an approach unique to aviation security and involving continuous monitoring was the most appropriate option. The Council of ICAO formally approved the move to a USAP-CMA in October 2012. Initial testing of USAP-CMA activities began in 2014, with full-scale implementation of the new approach beginning in January 2015.

USAP-CMA activities offer a number of advantages over the previous approach to auditing. Foremost among these is the ability to update audit results as required. The flexible risk-management-based framework also results in a tailored auditing system.

As of 30 April 2017, a total of 58 USAP-CMA activities have been conducted in 55 States, including 42 on‑site audits, 13 documentation-based audits and 3 validation missions.

Benefits of the USAP-CMA

The USAP-CMA continues to promote global aviation security by monitoring all Member States. However, the scope and frequency of each State’s monitoring activities depends on its security situation. While the USAP-CMA does not replace foreign inspection programmes, it does determine the status of implementation of States’ aviation security oversight systems. It also provides an indication of each State’s level of compliance with security-related standards and recommended proceduresSARPs. The USAP-CMA audits provide States with recommendations to improve their security systems and oversight capabilities. The audits also facilitate the targeting and tailoring of assistance projects. For States needing to prioritize their foreign inspection plans, it provides information that can optimize their resources.

ICAO has also introduced a new type of audit report for the USAP-CMA. The new report helps States in the development and implementation of corrective action plans, and allows for findings to be addressed in the short, medium and long terms. These findings assist States in making the most effective use of their resources to improve civil aviation security systems.

USAP audits produce positive results

Since the inception of the USAP, over 250 aviation security experts from Member States have received USAP auditor training and certification. This training has provided them with a common understanding of what is necessary to comply with international aviation security, oversight requirements, and best practices. By participating in audits,   Their participation has also enabled them to observe global and regional best practices and take lessons learned back to their own States.


While moving forward  with the USAP-CMA, it is important to note  that the USAP, together with the information it generates, is a tool to assist Member States in meeting their obligations to international aviation security SARPs. While the responsibility for implementing security measures will remain with individual Member States, the USAP will continue to play an essential role in the effort to improve global aviation security.

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