TSA looks for performance data

Transportation Security Administration officials want to measure the performance of their screening staff and equipment in real time.

To accomplish that, the agency released a request for information May 12 that asks vendors for suggestions about creating a nationwide system to collect performance data from the nation’s 450 airports and submit it to a central distribution and management center. Responses are due by June 10.

TSA already has a system in place to collect data, but it is not centralized or standardized, said TSA spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan. TSA wants to improve connectivity to airports so that agency employees or contractors don’t need to manually send data to TSA headquarters, she said.

"What we're doing is taking out the middle man" and making data collection cheaper and faster, she said.

The system would also permit TSA to upload software and data to screeners and equipment, O’Sullivan said. Currently, new software and information occasionally must be mailed to airports on CDs, she said. The new system would also be able to evaluate machines connected to the network to determine if they meet security and compatibility standards.

TSA has 45,000 screeners and more than 12,000 X-ray machines, explosive-trace detectors, explosives-detection systems and walk-through metal detectors. The system would have to handle those elements and additions or changes TSA would make later. Agency officials are looking for an open-systems approach to permit different equipment to interoperate, O’Sullivan said.

The system would provide a "check engine light" for screening equipment to help improve maintenance, O’Sullivan said. It would analyze equipment anomalies, failures and alarms and notify the agency of when a machine has problems and help manage inventory.

It would also automatically analyze the performance of screening employees and determine in real time a screener’s ability to identify threats.

TSA wants to see what technology is available and how it might fit the agency's needs, O'Sullivan said. Once the submissions are in, she said, the availability of funds and other factors will determine if TSA goes ahead with an official request for proposals.

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