The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it plans to award the remaining FY ’11 funding for Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) next March, giving Rapiscan Systems, which is one of two potential competitors, ample time to get its threat recognition algorithms ready to be able to compete for the work.

Earlier this month TSA awarded L-3 Communications [LLL], the other competitor for AIT, a $44.8 million contract to provide the agency with 300 of its millimeter wave-based AIT systems (TR2, Sept. 14). That leaves 200 left to be purchased under with FY ’11 funds.

TSA says that if Rapiscan has its automated target recognition (ATR) algorithms ready for its backscatter X-Ray-based AIT system, then it will be able to compete for those units. TSA Administrator John Pistole has said several times this year, and most recently at the beginning of September, that the agency expects to conduct operational tests of Rapiscan’s AIT systems upgraded with the ATR capability this fall.

Rapiscan is a division of OSI Systems [OSIS].

Over the summer L-3 successfully finished testing its ATR algorithms on some of its AIT systems deployed to U.S. airports, triggering an award by TSA to the company to upgrade its already deployed whole body imagers with the advanced software. That award was followed by the larger contract this month for the 300 L-3 ProVision AIT systems.

TSA says in a recent FedBizOpps announcement justifying the recent AIT award to L-3 that only L-3 and Rapiscan are expected to be able to compete for the 200 AIT systems. The award to L-3 includes the option for 200 more systems and is valued at $74.8 million, leaving $30 million remaining to be awarded.

The justification announcement says that TSA has worked with the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security to examine if third party software developers would be able to create a software solution for ATR to be installed on the AIT machines. A Broad Agency Announcement soliciting proposals for this did not result in viable solution, the agency says.

TSA says that ATR-enabled AIT machines have two primary benefits. One is lower life-cycle costs.

AIT systems operating without ATR require a Transportation Security Officer to be stationed at a remote location within the airport to view images of people being scanned. The agency says that there are 243 L-3 AIT systems deployed, each requiring an image operator. With ATR, this position is unnecessary, TSA says, allowing the overall level of passenger screening resources to be reduced or enabling additional passenger screening activities to be performed with the current level of personnel.

TSA also says that on average the image operator stations cost $18,000 to construct. Of the 500 systems to be procured with FY ’11 funds, the agency estimates that 70 percent would require new remote viewing stations, costing about $6.3 million.

Another benefit is enhanced privacy because the AIT scans will not be viewed by a security officer, thereby enhancing “TSA’s public image and passenger relations,” the agency says. The justification announcement lists additional benefits under enhanced passenger screening operations but these have all been redacted.