Transportation Security Administration faces strict deadlines

The newly created Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is scurrying to meet strict deadlines mandated by an aviation and transportation security law enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

John Magaw, the head of TSA, told the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday that requirements already met by the Transportation Department include the federalization of baggage screeners and the mandate that air carriers begin to electronically transmit passenger lists from foreign airlines.

Feb. 17 is the deadline for Transportation to take over vendor contracts for baggage screening. TSA officials soon will be deployed to the nation's 429 airports to assess how much space is available for new screening machines and how many are needed.

TSA is using the Baltimore-Washington International Airport to study security operations, test TSA deployment techniques and technology, and train security managers. The agency also has assembled groups of consultants from companies such as Intel and Walt Disney.

Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn., voiced the need for "strong safeguards" to prevent bias in awarding contracts for various equipment, given TSA's close work with industry representatives.

Explosive-detection equipment is a vital part of the baggage-checking program, Magaw said. Computers will screen passengers, and passengers will be screened for weapons, often more than once. An explosive-detection device must screen every bag by the end of the year.

"Working with a team of consultants, we are looking at a wide variety of innovative approaches using technology, different ways to run the check-in process, and procurement strategies that can get us to that goal," Magaw said.

Magaw said he will rely heavily on the Transportation Security Oversight Board, which will be composed of Cabinet secretaries and representatives from intelligence and national security groups--the White House Office of Homeland Security, in particular.

TSA is searching for officials to head the new Office of Intelligence, which will be one step down from Magaw's office. The office will confer with intelligence agencies and coordinate information sharing among governments and managers of airports, train stations, ports and other routes when increased security measures are necessary.

An "EZ-Pass" system, or a voluntary system where Americans would have personal information stored on a card, has been proposed to shorten airports' security lines. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., said although such technological systems would be a huge investment in the beginning, it would decrease necessary airport manpower and alleviate other security headaches.

Magaw said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta will consider that option, but Magaw voiced caution. He said the technology exists to establish such a system and currently is used in certain parts of Europe, but several issues need to be addressed. For instance, it would have to be determined whether those passengers would still get their bags checked.

"What does that gain us to do that?" Magaw said. "I'm not willing to make that move at this point."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.