The Transportation Department has found a new way for private sector officials to give something back to their country: by volunteering with the Transportation Security Administration. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced the new volunteer program Wednesday in a speech before the Transportation Research Board, a part of the National Academies of Science. Under the program, private sector executives can spend six to nine months at the TSA advising management teams that are building the new agency from scratch. The program allows the Transportation Department to glean insights from private sector leaders who have wrestled with some of the same management challenges facing the new agency. For example, an executive from Walt Disney World Co. will provide advice on managing long lines of people, said Mineta. "Many first-rate firms have offered us resources to use for a number of months," he said. "These senior advisors will work side-by-side with members of our leadership team…to help design the processes and measurements that will comprise the work of the TSA." Executives from Disney World, Intel Corp., investment firm A.T. Kearney Inc., Solectron Corporation, an electronics manufacturing firm, and Fluor Corporation, an engineering firm, will constitute the first class of TSA volunteers. They won't be paid, but will be reimbursed for some travel and living expenses. All volunteers must pass criminal background checks and resolve any potential conflicts of interest before starting work at the new agency. TSA will not recruit volunteers for the program but will listen to offers, said a senior Transportation official at a briefing following Mineta's speech. Mineta reiterated that the TSA would meet a Friday deadline for screening all checked baggage at the nation's airports. Airlines will use manual searches, bomb-sniffing dogs, explosive-detection machines and a system that ensures all checked luggage on a flight is matched to a passenger to meet the deadline. Airlines must report to the Transportation Department on their use of the bag match system, according to a senior Transportation official. "I think [the airlines] will be working hard to meet the new procedures," said the official, who added, "There will be [airports] where it works better than others." Mineta also announced that the agency had signed a $550,000 contract with McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm, to determine ways to screen all checked baggage with explosive-detection machines by the end of the year, as required under the transportation security law. Mineta also said that Baltimore-Washington International Airport would be used for testing new airport security technology and training senior TSA managers. "I have been to BWI numerous time since Sept. 11 just to watch and learn," said Mineta. "The Federal Aviation Administration has a terrific, dedicated team there, led by Amy Becke, who has already taught me a lot," he said.
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