Hi-Tec deploys aviation-security complaint system

Hi-Tec Systems is helping NASA deploy a new system to confidentially acquire information about aviation security problems, company officials said today.

Based in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., the company specializes in aviation security. Hi-Tec officials are working with NASA’s Ames Research Center on the Security Incident Reporting System (SIRS).

The system gathers information about security problems of any size. The Transportation Security Administration at the Homeland Security Department uses the information to strengthen security procedures as needed.

Hi-Tec is responsible for deploying the system nationwide during the next few years, said Donald Lefler, communications manager at Hi-Tec. The company is a subcontractor on the $26 million federal contract that includes SIRS and was awarded to Booz Allen Hamilton.

Anyone who works at an airport, including airline and TSA personnel, can mail paper forms describing security infractions and weaknesses they see, said Linda Connell, project manager for SIRS.

SIRS provides a confidential, voluntary and nonpunitive way for concerned individuals to let an impartial third party, NASA, know about problems, Connell said.

“This gives them an extra avenue of reporting a problem if they think their initial report is being ignored or not being acted upon,” Lefler said.

Confidentiality is crucial because without it, “you’re essentially killing the messenger,” Connell said. Revealing the source of complaints would have a chilling effect on reporting future problems, she said.

Submissions are paper-based to help ensure anonymity; online submissions can be more easily traced than paper ones, Connell said. The U.S. Postal Service provides better security than any information technology vendor, she said.

NASA then uses independent experts to verify claims that are passed on to TSA, Connell said.

The San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland international airports in California have been using a pilot version of SIRS since January, she said. So far, the system has logged 1,000 submissions, she said.

SIRS will add another eight airports in Florida and New York by December, Connell said. The program is scheduled to go nationwide by 2009, but she said she expects it will be sooner. She added that the system will eventually be electronic and automated.

SIRS also intends to test by December the electronic submission of its experts’ reports to the database that TSA uses, Connell said.

SIRS was created after NASA received so many flight safety warnings after the 2001 terrorist attacks that it needed a system dedicated to them, Connell said.


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