Unimpressed with the slow rollout of advanced scanning technology for screening carry-on bags at airport checkpoints, the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would authorize $1.6 billion over five years to accelerate the deployment of the computed tomography (CT)-based systems.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is seeking $104.9 million in fiscal year 2022 for the checkpoint CT systems, an amount that the agency’s administrator, David Pekoske, said last year falls short of what is needed to accelerate the program and complete the deployment over the next five years. He said last October that the program would need about $250 million more in FY ’22 toward the purchase of the roughly 2,400 systems required for full operational capability.
“It’s imperative that TSA quickly replace its outdated X-ray screening at airports with the advanced detection capability that computed tomography technology provides,” Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), the ranking member on the committee, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the Office of Management and Budget, the department, and even Congress have failed to fully fund this important program, despite longstanding, bipartisan support from this committee.”
Katko said that based on the current levels of funding, it will be 10 to 15 years before TSA completes the deployment of the checkpoint CT systems, which provide better threat detection than the current Advanced Technology X-ray systems and eventually are expected to automatically identify threats in carry-on bags.
The lengthy deployment “is completely unacceptable based on the current threat environment,” he said.
So far, TSA has acquired 300 checkpoint CT systems from Smiths Detection, all of which have been deployed, and last year contracted with Analogic for a little over 300 more. The Analogic systems, which will be paired with more advanced screening lane technology, have yet to be installed.
The Securing the Checkpoint Property Screening System (S-CPSS) Act of 2022 would authorize $257 million in FY ’22, $336 million in FY ’23, $343 million in FY ’24, $350 million in FY ’25, and $355.4 million in FY ’26 for the new scanners.
Congressional appropriators in the House and Senate in bills and draft bills agreed to TSA’s $104.9 million request for checkpoint CT systems in FY ’22. A final federal appropriations bill is still being negotiated in Congress.
The S-CPSS bill also would require TSA to provide Congress with its procurement, deployment, and funding plays to complete installations by September 2026, and if funding would be needed beyond then. It also wants a plan to boost competition, including by supporting small business participation.