Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske wants to take greater advantage of public-private partnerships to more quickly field and evaluate new technologies to help save time when programs go through the formal acquisition process.
If a technology can be proven to work in an operational environment and the data that is collected answers the demands of the acquisition process, then some of the formal acquisition steps can be skipped, he said a State of TSA address.
Pekoske described ongoing evaluations of Automated Screening Lanes (ASLs) at various airport checkpoints around the country as a good example of how public-private partnerships can save time and federal money in getting technologies deployed faster. He said the roughly 128 ASLs that are deployed were bought and paid for by airlines and airports, which means TSA didn’t have to get congressional approvals for purchasing and deploying the systems.
TSA, airports and airlines began evaluating ASLs nearly two years ago. The systems include multiple divestment stations for travelers before their carry-on items pass through an X-Ray system, motorized rollers for easier and speedier throughput of items, and automated bin return systems, which improve efficiencies for Transportation Security Officers. The ASLs also automatically divert suspect bags for secondary screening and have the potential to link bins and their contents with the relevant traveler.
The ASLs currently at airport checkpoints in the U.S. have been supplied by L3 Technologies [LLL].
The ASL evaluations have shown TSA how many operators are needed, what the maintenance costs are and what the throughput is, Pekoske said during the discussion portion of the address at the George Washington Univ. Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. This has allowed for developmental, operational testing and evaluation to occur “in real-time,” and so hopefully the federal acquisition process that is underway can use this data without requiring it be done again, he said.
“That’s a really good example of how that public-private partnership comes to life,” Pekoske said. “And that’s something I’m really interested in in pursuing even further because, like I said, one of the core themes of our new strategy is to accelerate action.”
Another benefit of from this type of public-private partnership is that if technology fails, “to fail early and move on” so that TSA and its stakeholders get to that understanding sooner. He wants the agency to get back to its “entrepreneurial roots” of taking risks, and if something “doesn’t work, stop, and we’ll go on to something else.”
With threats evolving and changing rapidly, “we need to be much faster at fielding technology and putting it in the hands of our officers … My goal, and the goal of my leadership team, is to bring them more of those solutions faster so that they can be even further ahead of the threat as it develops.”
Pekoske also said that TSA is examining some of the “innovative” acquisition processes that part of the Defense Department use to streamline acquisitions and get capabilities fielded sooner, “and see if we might be able to model some of those in TSA.” He added that the “Department of Homeland Security is very, very focused on this because across the entire department … there’s a strong desire to speed up our acquisition process, but also at the same time get very good at clearly defining what it is we want. Buying the right things on schedule, within cost and having the capabilities that we require.”