The Transportation Security Administration plans to increase its purchases of new checkpoint baggage scanners in fiscal year 2020, asking Congress to provide it funding and authorities million to acquire 320 of the computed tomography (CT)-based systems.

The agency is getting close to awarding a contract or contracts for the checkpoint CT systems to purchase around 200 of the carry-on baggage scanners in FY ’19. Congress increased the budget request in FY ’19 for the systems by $20 million to accelerate their procurement and deployment.

Analogic’s ConneCT computed tomography checkpoint baggage scanner. Photo: Analogic

For FY ’20, $148.6 million is being sought from Congress to buy, install and test 237 CT systems and another 83 systems will be funded from unobligated balances in the Aviation Security Capital Fund, according to budget documents released by the Department of Homeland Security on March 18. The total the agency plans to spend on the checkpoint CT systems is $221 million in FY ’20.

“In FY 2019, TSA plans to purchase and deploy CT technology to the initial LPD (Last Point of Departure) flight-receiving airports,” the agency says in the budget documents. “Next in FY 2020, TSA will procure and deploy the second installment of additional CT units per checkpoint across additional LPD flight-receiving airports with future plans of expansion to Non-LPD flight receiving domestic airports.”

TSA highlights that the unit cost per CT system has increased from $500,000 to $600,000, including an infrastructure cost of $200,000.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske has said that he hopes the agency can buy CT systems to be used at all 2,400 airport checkpoints in the U.S.

TSA has purchased 49 CT systems so far for testing in airports and labs. The company has contracts with Analogic, Integrated Defense & Security Solutions, L3 Technologies [LLL], Smiths Detection and ScanTech Identification Beam Systems, which is offering a hybrid solution. Systems supplied by Analogic, IDSS, L3 and Smiths have participated in ongoing evaluations in airports in the U.S. and overseas.

Currently, TSA is evaluating the companies’ systems at separate airports but soon will do side by side testing of scanners from Analogic, IDSS, L3 and Smiths at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. IDSS’ DETECT 1000 is already installed at the airport and includes an auto-diverter to send suspect bags to separate area for secondary screening rather than down the conveyor for passengers to immediately retrieve.

The testing in Las Vegas is funded by the agency’s Accessible Property Screening System (APSS) contract, which provides funding to develop new algorithms for advanced screening. Development of the APSS algorithms is in response to new and emerging threats and to enhance the detection capabilities of the CT systems.

In the DHS budget documents, TSA says it expects to achieve the APSS detection standards and network ready connectivity on the CT systems in FY ’20 and to begin buying CT units that meet the detection standards.

A TSA spokeswoman tells HSR that the upcoming testing of the CT systems in Las Vegas will be integrated with an auto-diverter. She says once enough data is collected on the automated capabilities, future demonstrations will integrate CT systems with Automated Screening Lanes based readiness of vendors.

Automated Screening Lanes, or ASLs, feature multiple divestment stations, mechanized rollers, auto-diverters for secondary screening, and automated bin return systems.

The CT systems provide a three-dimensional view of a bag’s contents and allow the operator to virtually rotate the bag to get a better understanding of the items inside the bag. This makes it harder to conceal potential threats.

The CT technology has been used to automatically screen checked bags for explosives for years and TSA eventually expects to be able to apply the same auto-detection capabilities to the carry-on baggage screening. Initially, TSA is expected to allow travelers to leave electronic devices in their bags that are screened by CT systems and eventually liquids too.