Online system sifted for screeners

ORLANDO, Fla. — Working with the largest online pool of applicants ever pulled together, the Transportation Security Administration hired, trained and deployed 65,000 airport screeners in only five months, according to one official who helped develop the screening system.

The online system sifted through nearly 2 million applications, most of them submitted online at Monster's job search (www.monster.com), said Steve Maier, vice president for homeland security at NCS Pearson Inc., speaking today at the Information Processing Interagency Conference (IPIC) here this week. IPIC is the annual conference of the Government Information Technology Executive Council.

At one point, TSA was hiring a worker every minute in the congressional mandate to turn private airport workers into federal employees at 429 airports nationwide after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Maier said.

More than 90 percent of the applicants applied for their jobs online, answering a checklist of 170 questions. One out of three people passed the screening test and qualified. While 65,000 have been hired and assigned to airports, another 65,000 who qualified remain in a "ready pool" if they are needed.

The discussion of the TSA hiring process came on the second day of IPIC, as federal and private-sector officials looked at the problems of homeland security and how technology can help make the nation secure.

Mark Holman, the former deputy assistant to the president for homeland security, likened the new agency to "building a ship at sea."

"Technology is the opportunity to become safer and stronger," Holman said.

Nathaniel Heiner, chief knowledge officer at the Coast Guard, told the gathering that homeland security officials are hard at work tightening the borders. Among the initiatives are:

* Developing standards and technology for tracking ships in international waters.

* Tracking people and cargo across borders.

There are a lot of people coming into the United States, and "every one of them needs to be looked at," Heiner said.

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