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TSA's 'Airport of the Future' Includes More Biometrics and 'Intelligence-Driven' Procedures

Aug. 11, 2015, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, TSA agents are surrounded by travelers in lines that snake around the airport.

Aug. 11, 2015, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, TSA agents are surrounded by travelers in lines that snake around the airport. // Elaine Thompson/AP

This week, the Transportation Security Administration released its ambitious strategy to create what the agency describes as the "airport of the future."

Posted Sept. 2 on FedBizOpps, the 45-page "Strategic Five-Year Technology Investment Plan for Aviation Security" lays the groundwork "for future innovation and meets the immediate technology demands of specific mission needs.”

Today, TSA oversees about 440 federally regulated airports, which include a daily stream of about 1.8 million passengers and 1.2 million checked bags. But over the next 20 years, the number of passengers is predicted to increase by 1.1 billion, according to the 2015 Federal Aviation Administration forecast.

TSA technology and procedures may need to grow, too, to meet the security needs from this influx of passengers, the report stated.

The agency plans to devote a “significant portion” of its $3.6 billion security capability acquisition budget to security technologies, according to the report.

A few years ago, TSA moved away from a one-size-fits-all approach to security and began incorporating a risk-based security strategy, beginning with its adoption of such programs as its pre-screening lanes. TSA wants to take this approach a step further through a system, combining technology, data and processes within and across airports.

The agency “envisions a future defined by intelligence-driven, risk-based screening procedures and enhanced technology that will enable TSA to employ a flexible, adaptable and robust multilayered approach to detecting an evolving range of threats,” the plan stated.

In a single chart, the plan authors laid out TSA's strategy for developing and advancing key technology initiatives.

TSA’s near-term enhancements, which have a 1- to 3-year timetable, include such programs as a checked baggage risk-based security pilot and an open threat assessment platform, which would be an X-ray detection system to help TSA employees complete passenger risk assessment.

The agency’s long-term functional enhancements, which have a 3- to 5-year timetable, included the APEX Screen at Speed program, which would implement advanced and quick screening technology, and the use of more biometrics in security procedures, according to the plan.

The newly released plan builds off the agency's May 2014 Strategic Capability Investment Plan, expected to be updated every other year.

TSA led the plan’s development, in addition to officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Aviation Security Advisory Committee and other stakeholders.

The investment plan was written in accordance with the Homeland Security Act of 2002, according to the report.

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