The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established six research and development (R&D) goals to guide technology investments for transportation security, including several or more priority areas within each goal.

The six goals were outlined in July by the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as the finishing touches were being put on the Research and Development Test & Evaluation Strategic Plan (HSR, July 3). The plan was put together by S&T’s Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), and TSA’s Office of Security Capabilities and serves as a guide for HSARPA to pursue innovative transportation security solutions.

“The joint R&D strategy between HSARPA and TSA provides a cohesive vision for capability development and facilitates successful technology and/or security solution transfer,” the plan states. “HSARPA has defined R&D goals and objectives that closely align investments in R&D initiatives with DHS and TSA mission needs in an effort to drive tangible solutions and innovations in transportation security.”

Within the six goals are a set of priority areas, which in some cases are further defined by focus areas. The goals and some of their key priority and focus areas are:  

·         Goal 1: Enhanced detection performance of security screening systems, including research to help with requirements development to keep pace with new threats and to deliver next-generation solutions. Key priorities include characterizing emerging threat signatures, improving screener performance through new tools such as more efficient alarm resolution, and improving the testing and evaluation process to provide for more certainty and efficiency. Another priority is to optimize the performance of currently deployed systems by applying emerging technology.

·         Goal 2: Improve passenger experience in passenger aviation security through increased integration and automation of security screening processes. Here, HSARPA wants to reduce the “physical invasiveness” of screening modes while improving passenger throughput efficiency. Priority areas include developing non-contact personnel screening solutions, including handheld devices and automated threat recognition for carry-on items, and finding ways to reduce the items that passengers have to divest.

·         Goal 3: Develop enhanced technologies and capabilities that enable risk-based and intelligence driven screening processes, with automated screening systems seen as the foundation to achieving this goal. Priority areas are the development of software that allows for automated detection while adjusting for changes in risk posture, improving behavior detection capabilities, and improving data processing and decision-making tools to support risk-based security systems.

·         Goal 4: Increase capability to respond to emerging threats through development of flexible security solutions, meaning TSA would like to be able to alter and enhance its deployed systems to adapt to emerging and changing threats while allowing the agency to maximize the return on these fielded systems. Priorities include developing new standards and standardized interfaces for security systems, developing standard data image formats, enhancing explosive trace detection systems, and implementing new advances in behavior-based screening techniques.

·         Goal 5: Apply science and technology breakthroughs to advance security solutions to passenger aviation. Priorities are developing technologies and new concepts of operation to improve threat mitigation and response capabilities, enhance K-9 threat detection capabilities, develop new technologies for screening checked baggage within existing space constraints at airports, and explore options to adjudicate high level alarms in imaging technologies to reduce false alarms.

·         Goal 6: Apply science and technology improvements to enhance the security of intermodal transportation, which includes air cargo, airport infrastructure, mass transit, freight rail, highway motor carrier, and pipeline. Priority areas call for improvements in blast mitigation capabilities, surveillance and anomaly detection technologies, behavior detection and biometric identification technologies, interoperable information systems, high-throughput threat detection capabilities, chemical and biological threat security, resilience and recovery capabilities, and freight tamper prevention and detection.