The leading security equipment manufacturers with operations in the U.S. have formed a coalition organized by the Airport Consultants Council (ACC) to advocate for adequate government funding, increased transparency from their government customers, and more standardized international regulations.
“Having security companies come together as a dynamic voice will be a value-added proposition for the aviation security industry,” says Paula Hochstetler, ACC president. “Creating a platform for a united message from manufacturers will facilitate efficiencies in the development and implementation of next-generation screening technologies.”
While the various members of the new group belong to other assorted organizations, the Security Manufacturers Coalition is the first that represents just the platform providers of the security industry. Initial members of the Security Manufacturers Coalition are American Science and Engineering [ASEI], Analogic [ALOG], L-3 Communications’ [LLL] Security & Detection Systems business, Morpho Detection, which is part of France’s Safran Group, OSI Systems’ [OSIS] Rapiscan Systems division, SAIC’s [SAI] Reveal Imaging Technologies business unit, and Britain’s Smiths Detection, the largest security equipment provider in the world.
Officials from these companies and others for years have voiced concerns about transparency at the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection and other agencies at the Department of Homeland Security, particularly with regard to procurement plans for various types of screening and detection equipment.
The industry, in some ways is similar to major defense contractors in that it deals in relatively low volume production runs. But whereas the Defense Department is usually clear about its planned annual production lots and about the necessary milestones that have to be met before contracts are awarded, DHS is typically far less transparent in these areas.
One of the key issues that the coalition will address is making sure that government customers better understand the industrial base, Peter Kant, head of Global Government Affairs at Rapiscan, tells TR2. The manufacturers need “some level of knowledge” to have a better idea of where the government buyers “are going in terms of procurement,” he says. The companies would like to be able to do “multi-year planning” for production, he says.
The other key issue the coalition will be tackling is harmonization of international regulations for security technology, such as for liquids detection, Kant says. The industry would like international regulations to be similar and for governments to stick with plans after companies have made investments toward meeting new regulations, he says.
For example, the European Union had been planning on lifting a ban on liquids on carry-on baggage in 2013, and companies have been investing in the explosive detection technology to permit this, Kant says. But now implementation of those regulations has been delayed, which means for the industry there will be “no return on investment,” he says.
The coalition will encourage the U.S. to become more engaged with its international partners in harmonizing security standards, T.J. Schulz, executive vice president of ACC and director of the coalition, tells TR2.
In addition to aviation security issues, ACC says that the Security Manufacturers Coalition will also focus on intermodal security issues in the U.S. and globally.
The companies will be able to tackle certain challenges “collectively” and to also help the TSA and Congress with meeting challenges facing the industry and security in general, Schulz says. In the near future the coalition will be developing policy recommendations, he says.
The ACC says the coalition will also partner with government to define requirements to better drive research and development investments.