TSA’s Strategic Plan for Risk Based Security

Blogging live from the Colorado Airport Operators Association, Annual Conference, 2012, Vail, Colorado (paraphrasing as necessary)

Douglas Hoffsass – Assoc. Administrator, Office of the Administrator, TSA

The Right Reverend Hoffsass continues his nationwide tour to preach Administrator Pistole’s risk based security programs, most notably, PreCheck and Global Entry. I, Deacon Jeff, will attempt to pass his latest message to you.

In a quick poll of the room, while most attendees are familiar with PreCheck and Global Entry, many are not members of either program (a fact which could be partially attributed to the fact that the Continental/United merger has slowed the deployment of PreCheck to Denver International Airport).

Pistole’s “values” with respect to new aviation security initiatives: they must

improve security, create efficiencies and reduces the burden on the user.

Before discussing PreCheck, Doug spun off into the air cargo and GA industry security updates. All cargo moving in the U.S. or flying outbound from the U.S. is now 100% screened, but not all cargo inbound into the U.S. is currently screened. TSA is currently working with CBP and the freight forwarding industry, to determine if TSA can know more about the shipment and the shipper, can that knowledge be leveraged so that their shipments can clear faster when they arrive in the United States.

While not calling it “secure cargo,” or “known cargo,” but trying to look at what is coming into the U.S. and who is shipping it and take a risk based security approach on inbound cargo.

General aviation: in 2008, TSA launched the NPRM on the Large Aircraft Security Program, and with nearly 10,000 comments, the message came back to TSA who then engaged with industry. The new document will not be called the LASP, but it did include industry engagement. It does still have to clear the Office of Management and Budget.

Doug said that without getting ahead of himself on the future rule making the new regulations would be focused on the following four areas:

  1. Pilots knowing who your passengers are
  2. Having trusted and vetted crew
  3. Ensuring that the aircraft is properly secured when the aircraft is unattended
  4. Setting a weight limit for security measures

Doug did not speculate when the NPRM would come out, but Kerwin Wilson, TSA’s director for General Aviation did note 2 weeks ago at the AAAE Annual conference that it would be unlikely to come out prior to the elections in November.

 

PreCheck

The benefits of PreCheck is that you get to keep your shoes on, get to keep laptops inside the bag, and get to keep a light jacket on, belts staying on, with liquids staying in your suitcase. Fifteen airports are online as of today, with upwards of 30 by the end of the year. Participants to specifically to a lane that is designated for PreCheck screening. Presently, there are now AIT’s at the PreCheck locations, due to the reduced risk presented by PreCheck members. However, TSA has been receiving some feedback that certain individuals prefer the AIT (specifically those with medical implants) rather than the walk through metal detector.

If you are a member of Global Entry (globalentry.gov), through CBP (a $100 fee good for 5 years), essentially clears a passenger coming back to the United States, through an interactive kiosk and the time it takes, is less than a minute.

The TSA PreCheck process is an opt-in process on the airline website. When a passenger selects that option as the individual makes reservations in the future, there is an indicator encoded into the bar code on the boarding pass noting that the individual is a member. There are classified thresholds, for miles and/or segments and other travel characteristics that the TSA uses to determine an individuals eligibility for PreCheck. If the qualifiers are met, then the individual receives and “invitation” from their airline, via the airline reservation website.

While airports with PreCheck do provide a single-line for just PreCheck participants, TSA will not denigrate the screening process for other passengers to support the program. However, PreCheck lines are about two to two and a half times more efficient than a normal screening line, so as more passengers join PreCheck, the screening speed should continue to accelerate. While there are some relaxed screening procedures (shoes, laptops) TSA continues to conduct random screening of PreCheck passengers so that individuals cannot game the process.

TSA is working on more ways to bring people into the PreCheck program, and the vision of the future, is that 50-65% of the checkpoint of the future, we want to be PreCheck. The other side of the checkpoint will have passengers that are not members either by not being able to qualify for the program, or don’t want to provide background information necessary to become members.

As TSA wraps up PreCheck for Cat X airports (the large hubs), they will work towards Cat I and II airports (medium and small hubs), but for smaller airports, Cat III and IV’s, with only one screening line in some cases, the PreCheck program may have to look different. Those issues are still aways out and still being considered as it will be awhile before PreCheck comes to the smallest airport.

In response to questions from the audience, Doug noted that its not always about the number of checkpoint lanes that are available, but its more about the proper divestiture and recomposure set-up than it is the number of lanes, in determining the speed of the screening process.

By the way, it is important to note for this audience that Doug was one of the responders for United Airlines to the crash site of Flight 93 (something that I personally did not know until today) – he comes from our industry and has been an advocate for airports and aircraft operators during his tenure with the TSA and we appreciate his support.

Here endeth the lesson.

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