IG: Problems linger from rush to create TSA

The Transportation Security Administration is pursuing several information technology programs that have not been integrated into an effective infrastructure, concludes a new report from Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner.

As part of its response to the 2001 terrorist attacks, TSA rushed to set up security screening programs at 450 airports. The $6.3 billion agency, which became part of DHS in 2003, has continued to develop numerous IT initiatives in a decentralized fashion and struggles to coordinate its IT systems, the inspector general said.

Also, the agency’s chief information officer lacks authority and staff to integrate the systems, share data and reduce manual work processes, the IG said.

In the 48-page report, “IT Management Needs to be Strengthened at the TSA,” Skinner describes an agency of 11 business units that has suffered numerous setbacks in IT. For example, the agency has stumbled in developing its Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II, which it eventually canceled, and with the successor screening program, Secure Flight, which is not yet deployed.

The IG also noted long-standing concerns about TSA’s managed-services contract with Unisys Corp. That contract will be reconfigured and placed under the Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions procurement vehicle this year, the report said.

As of May, TSA had been 70 percent successful in creating high-speed connectivity to passenger-screening areas in airports and 57 percent successful in implementing high-speed connectivity to baggage-screening locations.

The agency manages more than 1,000 databases but has no inventory of the data across the systems, the report states. As a result, there are redundancies, inconsistencies and ineffective use of data and continued need for cumbersome manual processes in managing data, the report states.

The report made five recommendations to strengthen IT management, including planning to improve IT enterprise architectures, coordination and information-sharing. TSA managers agreed with the suggestions.

TSA outsources many of its IT programs to contractors. Improved IT management is likely to present continued opportunities for contracting, although it also may result in the streamlining and integration of existing contracts, the report states.

Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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