Great expectations

The 6-month-old Transportation Security Administration has an opportunity to do what many agencies likely dream about: build an agency and an information technology infrastructure from scratch.

TSA is preparing to launch a $1 billion-plus contract to give it the latest and greatest technology it needs to equip and connect its far-flung offices and airports around the country.

Many agencies would love to toss out their legacy systems and aging applications and construct a gleaming new IT infrastructure that would propel them into the interactive world of e-government. What's more, TSA, with its homeland security role, is attracting procurement, technology, security and other experts from across government who want to make the agency's vision a reality.

But creating an agency from scratch under any circumstance is no easy task. Thousands of moving parts must come together.

Sharing information with other agencies still struggling to replace their aging systems will be a challenge. Add to that the pressure of the schedule that governs TSA's every move and its central role in securing air travel, and it's clear that the road ahead is a long one.

It appears, however, that TSA is on the right track. According to its most recent update to Congress, the agency is incorporating the items in the President's Management Agenda to make it a truly performance-based organization.

For instance, it will be able to automatically tie resource requirements and expenditures to performance and results. In accordance with the Government Performance and Results Act, TSA has laid out specific goals, such as improving customer satisfaction, and ways to measure progress. On April 25, the agency launched an initial system that collects performance data and presents the information via Web-based reports.

TSA must make sure this work continues. Agency officials can't let their desire for a quick fix distract them from doing it right the first time around. This is an opportunity that can't be missed.

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