TSA testing mobile devices for its employees, CIO says

Official describes TSA's need for workforce mobility

The Transportation Security Administration is exploring how to put more mobile devices in the hands of some of its managers and employees, TSA's CIO said June 16.

“We need secure mobility,” said Emma Garrison-Alexander, who has been in charge of TSA’s annual $400 million IT budget since June 2009. “We have inspectors, behavior officers and managers moving from location to location.”

Garrison-Alexander, who spoke at the Women in Technology’s Government Leaders at the Helm event, said she has carried her personal MacBook Air notebook computer while traveling on business but has not hooked it up to the TSA network because it is not an approved device.

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She said TSA is evaluating a number of mobile devices, including iPads, to meet its workforce mobility needs. “We want something light and easy to use,” she added. “We are not fixated on the iPad, but it has to be portable, light and secure.”

TSA is currently testing several tablet PCs and other mobile devices to determine whether they can meet the federal requirements for security, including those specified by the Federal Information Security Management Act, the Homeland Security Department, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Garrison-Alexander said.

So far, the devices’ performance has suffered when operating with strong security, she added.

“The iPad can operate the security applications, but it takes away from the functionality,” she said. “We are still trying to work toward a solution.”

TSA already offers a popular mobile application for consumers called MyTSA that provides information on what travelers are allowed to bring on airplanes and real-time crowdsourced data on waiting times at major airports.

Other speakers at the event included Linda Cureton, CIO at NASA; Lesley Field, deputy administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy; Amy Morris, executive editor at Federal News Radio; and Patricia Waddell, deputy director of the IT Schedule 70 program at the General Services Administration.

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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