Until President Trump finds a resolution to his $5.7 billion demand for border wall funds, the Transportation Security Administration has essentially put on hold its acquisition plans for advanced systems to screen passengers’ bags at airport checkpoints, according to government and industry officials.
TSA had hoped as early as late 2018 to begin purchasing the computed tomography (CT)-based baggage scanners and after deciding it wanted additional information from interested vendors set Jan. 15 as the deadline for resubmitted bids. Now they have postponed the resubmittals until the wall issue is resolved, industry officials with stakes in the procurement told Defense Daily.
“The CT source selection activities have tapered in pace due to the lapse in appropriation,” a TSA spokesman told Defense Daily on Jan. 10 in an emailed statement. “All CT offerors have been advised by the Contracting Officer that upon enactment of continuing resolution or appropriation act, updated milestones will be provided. Once the furlough has ended, the agency will assess the schedule impacts and communicate with offerors the anticipated schedule for award.”
The CT at the checkpoint and other new programs at DHS are suffering due to an ongoing shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security and other departments and agencies due to an impasse over the border wall proposal. That shutdown has meant a lapse in funding at the department with front line workers such as Transportation Security Officers working without pay and non-exempt personnel on furlough.
Congressional Democrats opposed Trump’s proposal for a steel barrier and have instead countered with a $1.3 billion offer that includes various border security projects. The Trump administration originally requested $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2019.
One industry official said that once DHS funding resumes, it will be at least a month before the CT program is back on track. There is funding for the program that was appropriated in prior years.
Trump has said he’s willing to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and use existing federal funds for the wall.
Analogic, Integrated Defense & Security Solutions, L3 Technologies [LLL] and Smiths Detection, a unit of Britain’s Smiths Group, all have CT at the checkpoint offerings that TSA has been evaluating in more than a dozen airports. Airports overseas are also evaluating the systems.
In addition to the CT program, TSA has slowed other acquisition efforts.
On Jan. 10, the agency notified vendors that an industry day planned for Jan. 23 is being postponed until further notice due to the funding notice. The purpose of the event is to introduce the new checkpoint Accessible Property Screening (APS) program, which TSA says will become its long-term solution to enhanced detection capabilities, automated conveyance, and the networking of checkpoint transportation security equipment.
TSA originally announced the APS industry day on Dec. 26, five days after the funding lapse began.
TSA expects it will take about $1 billion to achieve full operating capability of APS at all of its airport checkpoints.
The agency earlier this month also postponed an industry day it had planned for Jan. 14 on a program potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars for contractors support related to three credentialing system programs: the Transportation Vetting System, Screening Gateway, and Technology Infrastructure Modernization. The event has been postponed due to the shutdown.
For both events, TSA said that vendors can continue to submit white papers.