TSA awards passenger screening contract

The Transportation Security Administration announced Feb. 28 that it awarded Lockheed Martin Management and Data Systems a contract to build a system to prescreen and perform risk assessments on airline travelers.

The Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening II program, called CAPPS II, is a substantially advanced version of the system now in use, one that has been criticized for its seeming tendency to subject the elderly and children to increased scrutiny.

With CAPPS II, the focus will turn to authenticating people's identities, being able to truly distinguish between two Mary Smiths, for example, officials said. Passengers will activate CAPPS II when they make flight reservations, with their travel information passing from airlines to TSA. The agency will then run individual searches, scanning government and commercial databases for data that could indicate a potential threat. Based on its findings, the agency will assign a red, yellow or green score to travelers, ultimately appearing on their boarding passes.

The determination for red — a branding that prevents passengers from flying — will rest on a watch list, compiled by intelligence and law enforcement authorities, officials said. TSA plans to automate the list of "individuals that should deserve greater scrutiny," said Transportation Department Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, who outlined the program at a media briefing Feb. 26.

Passengers placed in the yellow category will face additional screening before being allowed to board. "Green" passengers will be free to go, officials said. "We're trying to answer a simple question: Is this individual a known and rooted member of the community?" Jackson said.

Under the terms of the competitively awarded contract, Lockheed Martin will assist TSA in developing the program technology infrastructure and will administer it for TSA through a five-year task order contract. The first task order was awarded for $12.8 million. TSA will assess the passenger risk assessment.

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