AAAE Annual: TSA Round Table Discussion

Dateline: 84th Annual AAAE Conference and Exposition
AAAE Annual: TSA Round Table Discussion

Moderator, Mark Crosby A.A.E. Chief of Public Safety and Security, Portland International Airport
Chris McLaughlin, Asst. Administration for Security Operations TSA
Doug Hofsass, Associate Administrator for Risk-Based Security, TSA

Hofsass began the discussions talking about RBS (risk-based security) and explained that it is not just about the passenger PreCheck program but that it has inculcated into the culture of how TSA approaches security, including general aviation, cargo and international operations. Hofsass noted that for every solution or proposal brought to Administrator Pistole, it must meet the following criteria:

Does it improve security
Does it create efficiencies i the system
Does it reduce the burden on the operators

McLaughlin followed onto Hofsass’ comments noting that some initiatives, such as different screening procedures for children under 12 and individuals over 75, while they represent a small amount of the total passenger count (about 6% of the passengers), but they represent about 10% of the total time spent in screening.

According to McLaughlin, TSA must have success in PreCheck, the under 12 and over 75 program, the passenger/canine screening initiatives, and other programs, must be successful in order to survive the coming TSA budget cuts.

The future of PreCheck may include military personnel (about 2 million eligible based on current standards) and possibly, Security Identification Display Badge holders, but to achieve the real economies of scale for PreCheck to be effective, a much larger number of individuals will have to be in the PreCheck program, Hofsass said.

Passenger Screening Canines (PSC)
Mark Crosby asked about the Airport Law Enforcement Agencies Network’s concern, about how dogs could be used for cargo security until law enforcement Officer response issues are better researched and resolved.

McLaughlin said he recognizes that this has been an issue that is very controversial in the industry, but that if he owned an airport, he would be begging for these dogs. TSA owns 940 dogs at this time. There are 16 certified teams, TSA is finding test explosive scents at an incredibly high rate and he has no idea where certain reports are coming from saying that the program is not very effective at detection. The actual success rate is classified as SSI, but he did note that out of six months of service, there were only 2 misses (known as a nonproductive response), with certified dogs.

550 people an hour (as a secondary screening mechanism), which is about the average number of people a dog can screen in an hour.

In a recent test on actual passengers, “We achieved a level of security that at worst was noninvasive, and at best, a positive experience for the customer,” said McLaughlin. He further noted that in both nonproductive response incidents in neither case was the terminal evacuated. “We have found a way to resolve ETD issues without engaging EOD, we do that all day every day.”

In response to ALEANs white paper on the use of canines for passenger screening, McLaughlin noted that ALEAN had not yet sent him the paper, but he has seen it from other sources and that he agrees with some of it, and disagrees with other parts. Crosby encouraged TSA to get together with ALEAN and the lawyers and airport operators, to clarify the issues and generate solutions. McLaughlin agreed that while the TSA lawyers don’t seem to see issues with the resolution protocols, there does need to be a better conversation with the operators to see if there are additional concerns.

Hofsass said that the canine screening option is sometimes a better option for PreCheck, or possibly to even use for the non PreCheck passengers.

McLaughlin fielded a question about why TSA has not increased TSO’s while passenger enplanements have increased, and instead have been using additional technologies and layered security measures instead. He pointed to the canine screening and the Assessor pilot-program currently underway at Boston/Logan as capable of handling higher passenger volumes without increasing personnel.

TSA is now looking at the 3-1-1 policy to see if there are further efficiencies that can be gained by possible changes to the policy.

Back of the House
Targeted, random screening through the Playbook process, has been effective at “warding off,” 100% employee screening at U.S. airports.

McLaughlin said that most of the employee screening measures, expect to see more of the same, meaning more random screening and use of Playbook measures and other similar programs, rather than looking at 100% screening models.

Credential Authentication Technology – Boarding Pass Scanning Systems (CAT-BPSS)
So far, the TSA has not been getting the throughout they would like to see at the airports that are currently piloting this technology.

Known Crew Member
This flight crew alternative screening program continues to expand through the initial pilot airports, and continuing to what will soon be 21 airports. It is only opened to uniformed flight crew members, but TSA has not started looking at flight attendants to expand the program. KCM does help reduce the number of required TSO personnel required to be at the checkpoint.

Field Intelligence Officers (FIOs)
Robert Olislagers, Director of Centennial Airport, inquired about the status of the FIO program and the ability to get active intelligence and threat information to the airport operators, particularly the general aviation operators.

Hofsass responded – the integration of the intelligence community at large continues to get significantly better in six month increments. If you were to compare with where we are now from where we were on 9/11, I would tell you the integration continues and we are getting better information than every before.

The level of detail the TSA is getting – the products are better now than they’ve ever been. While TSA is trying to build the FIO program, and airport operators are finding ways to access information, such as getting on JTTF’s, the challenge for TSA remains the “time to market” challenge – as we get better products from the intelligence community to get that information to the checkpoint and airport operators.

TSA’s 007 man, and intel ‘czar’ Thomas Hoops, from the Office of Intelligence, is focused on improving this issue.

Behavior Detection Officers (BDO’s)
Question from participant at a small airport, about whether the BDO’s can be better utilized, rather than appearing to just walking around the airport. McLaughlin said that TSA is looking to re-assign the locations of the BDO’s to be better effective. He also noted that the TSO’s will also begin to receive some low level training on suspicious activities.

A random thought here – perhaps they could dress up the BDO as a janitor, give them a mop and then have them watch for suspicious activity – like they do in Israel.

Thank you to Chris, Doug and Mark for your dedication and contributions to aviation security – Jeff


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