The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) currently doesn’t have the flexibility it needs under the continuing budget resolution to award the next round of airport checkpoint advanced baggage screening contracts in fiscal year 2022, but if the budget limitations persist the agency will ask Congress for leeway in being able to make contract awards on existing programs, the head of the agency said on Tuesday.

“There’s always an opportunity for the administration to signal to the Congress, ‘Hey, when you do this next continuing resolution (CR), can you make these adjustments in the CR,’ and oftentimes that does result in some change of funding levels,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told Defense Daily on the sidelines of the annual American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Aviation Security Summit.

Under the current CR, which expires in February 2022, TSA doesn’t “have the flexibility” it needs to award the checkpoint computed tomography (CT) contracts it hopes to using fiscal year 2022 funds, he said. If Congress extends the CR beyond that point, “That’s where we would ask for some flexibility in the CR process. It’s certainly up to the Congress.”

TSA this fall awarded Analogic a $198 million contract to provide 314 of the company’s ConneCT checkpoint CT systems under the mid-size portion of the program, which includes the scanners for screening carry-on bags and elements of the baggage handling systems. In FY ’22, which began on Oct. 1, the agency is hoping to award two award full-size and base checkpoint CT contracts, which will include the scanning machines and different portions of the baggage handling systems.

Ultimately, TSA expects to procure about 314 checkpoint CT systems. The recent award to Analogic was the second by TSA for CT systems. In 2019, Smiths Detection received a contract for 300 of the advanced scanners.

TSA is seeking about $105 million in FY ’22 to purchase checkpoint CT systems and congressional appropriators have agreed to the request. However, the funding won’t be available until Congress agrees to pass appropriations bills to fund the government this fiscal year. The ongoing CR allows government agencies to maintain funding profiles at prior fiscal year levels.

Pekoske believes Congress will pass an FY ’22 appropriations bill for the federal government, but there are concerns that the government may operate for the entire year under a CR.

Pekoske told Congress this fall that TSA needs about $350 million annually to accelerate purchases of CT systems and complete deployments within the next five years. At current spending levels, it’s more likely to take at least 10 years.

TSA recently provided Congress with its five-year capital investment plan (CIP), which shows the agency is only expecting to have $29 million available for checkpoint CT acquisition each year between FY ’23 and FY ’26. These potential funding levels are giving industry officials angst because it becomes difficult to demonstrate to investors and corporate executives that TSA is committed to keeping the program a priority.

If these levels hold, it will be a lot longer than 10 years before the agency can complete its purchase of scanners.

Pekoske said the $29 million shown in the CIP each of the next four years is based on current budget constraints in the outyears. Asked if he could provide industry hope that the FY ’23 request for checkpoint CT acquisition will actually be higher than the CIP shows, Pekoske replied that “it’s too early” to say. He said the White House Office of Management and Budget is waiting on Congress to approve the FY ’22 budget before it has a sense of what it can support in the FY ’23 request.

In addition to Analogic and Smiths Detection, Integrated Defense and Security Solutions and Leidos [LDOS] are offering checkpoint CT systems to TSA. These companies have also sold their systems to international airport customers.