Deployments of new scanners with enhanced capabilities for peering inside travelers’ bags at airport security checkpoints will begin this fall, a senior Transportation Security Administration official said on Tuesday.
Deployments of the computed tomography (CT)-based checkpoint scanners originally were planned for this summer but TSA’s $96.8 million award in late March to Smiths Detection for the first 300 units was protested by L3Harris Technologies [LHX]. The Government Accountability Office in July denied two protests by L3Harris, freeing TSA to complete the award to Smiths Detection and for the company to begin work on the contract.
“We were extremely fortunate that in short order the protest was resolved,” Patricia Cogswell, acting deputy administrator of TSA, told the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. “We only lost about 90 days as a result. The award has been completed and we have already identified where the machines are scheduled for and we will begin deployment this fall.”
Cogswell said deployments will begin at airports in part based on “risk calculations” but also to try out the systems “in a lot of different environments.” This means the CT machines will go to large and small airports “to ensure that we recognize how they operate across the board,” she said in response to questions from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
A TSA spokesman told Defense Daily that the agency doesn’t have specifics to announce yet regarding deployment timelines.
Smiths Detection is supplying its HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX systems to begin replacing the approximately 2,400 Advanced Technology (AT) X-ray systems that it and the Rapiscan Systems division of OSI Systems [OSIS] supply to TSA to scan carry-on bags at airport checkpoints. Smiths Detection is part of Britain’s Smiths Group.
The CT system provides operators with a three-dimensional view of a bag’s contents, giving Transportation Security Officers more clarity of a bag’s contents. The machines, which are based on the same technology used to automatically screen checked bags for explosives, are expected to eventually include automated threat recognition algorithms to alert for the presence of explosives and weapons.
Initially, use of the CT systems will allow travelers to leave their electronic devices in their bags. As detection algorithms improve, at some point passengers are expected to be able to leave their liquids inside their bags as well.
TSA is expected to award the next tranche of checkpoint CT systems in about a year during the government’s fiscal year 2020 fourth quarter. Cogswell said that TSA is “looking to the next algorithm” for its next purchase of CT systems when asked by Capito if that acquisition will have “even more micro-detection capabilities.”
Cogswell also said the next CT award will have the machines integrated with the Automated Security Lanes (ASL) that TSA has been evaluating at a number of airports for the past two to three years. The integration will include ASLs with mechanized rollers to bring bags to the CT systems, multiple divestment stations for travelers to more conveniently load belongings onto screening systems, automated bin returns, and automated tray diverters on the backend if a potential threat is identified for further examination, she said.
At an industry day in June, TSA called the integration of CT systems with ASLs the “mid-size” procurement (Defense Daily, June 20). The agency said then that the CT mid-size systems will also have to meet a specific detection standard and have the ability to connect to the TSA network.
Cogswell said the ASL integration with CT will allow for increased traveler throughput at the checkpoint.
In addition to L3Harrris, Analogic and Integrated Defense & Security Solutions also competed against Smiths for the CT award. The companies expected TSA to award at least two contracts at the time and are expecting multiple awards next year when the agency contracts for the next batch of CT systems.