The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have both recommended fully funding the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) funding requests in FY ’18 for passenger and checked baggage screening and for the agency’s research and development effort aimed at evaluating various technologies for operational use before procurement decisions are made.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, just before Thanksgiving released his mark for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) FY ’18 spending levels, and included $4 million for checkpoint technologies, $33 million for checked baggage technologies, and $20.2 million for R&D, which is largely the Innovation Task Force that pilots technologies and operating concepts in operational environments. The funding levels are the same as those requested by DHS and recommended by the House appropriators.
Any equipment with a unit cost of less than $250,000 can be purchased using operations and support funds.
The $53.3 million in acquisition spending for checkpoint and checked baggage technologies, which doesn’t include funding for the Innovation Task Force, is less than the $170.4 million appropriated in FY ’17. Congress appropriated at least $180 million in FY ’16 for checkpoint support and checked baggage screening technologies.
Cochran’s explanatory statement accompanying his mark of the FY ’18 DHS budget request supports TSA’s efforts to purchase and test computed tomography-based systems, which is the technology currently used to automatically screen checked bags for explosives, for use at passenger checkpoints to screen carry-on bags. TSA’s Innovation Task Force is currently evaluating CT-based systems from two companies at checkpoints with plans to add a third early in 2018.
“The committee encourages TSA to remain innovative in its efforts to enhance threat detection and security effectiveness,” Cochran’s mark says.
TSA is expected to replace many of its existing Advanced Technology X-Ray systems currently used to screen carry-on bags at airport checkpoints with the CT-based systems but ongoing evaluations of the technology are expected to last into 2018, making it unlikely for any significant purchases of the systems until later next year at earliest.