News in Brief

Airport security, health IT, cyber-collaboration and more

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TSA turns to contest to improve PreCheck

The Transportation Safety Administration is turning to the crowd for ways to improve its PreCheck expedited security screening program.

The TSA's listing on the InnoCentive crowdsourcing platform promised to reward the best ideas on how to improve PreCheck processes with a share of $15,000 in prize money. TSA said it was looking for a "Next Generation Checkpoint Queue Design Model to apply a scientific and simulation modeling approach to meet the dynamic security screening environment."

The design, it said, could address not only PreCheck lanes, but standard, premier passenger class, flight crew or wheelchair access lanes, as well. The agency said the challenge is to work out a simulation model concept that could be used to consider a range of site-specific requirements, peak and non-peak hours, flight schedules and TSA staffing schedules.

Solvers, it said, are expected to provide the concept and provide evidence that it works as described in the requirements. Individual award payouts would be between $2,000 and $5,000 each.

AT&T to install VOIP systems for U.S. embassies

AT&T Government Solutions, part of a subsidiary of the telecom giant, will provide some 300 U.S. embassies and consulates with IP telephone systems in a deal worth up to $275 million over five years, the firm announced July 21. AT&T will design, procure, install and test the telephone systems.

"This is an exciting example of the concept of secured, unified communications being brought to life," AT&T Government Solutions President Kay Kapoor said in a statement.

Shorter airport waits create a need for better tech

International passengers at two of the New York region's largest area airports are passing through security checks so smoothly and efficiently that they need more technology to help them while away the time waiting for their bags, according to a study by a group of local industry, government and labor officials.

According to the Global Gateway Alliance, during the first six months of 2014, automated passport kiosks reduced wait times at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport by 33 percent and by more than 15 percent at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport.

Average wait times at JFK's Terminal 4 decreased from approximately 34 minutes to 17 minutes this year, a 50 percent cut; wait times at JFK Terminal 1 average were reduced by 21 percent in spite of a 14 percent increase in passenger traffic, the alliance said.

The reductions have introduced a new challenge for airport operators and for Customs and Border Protection: Passengers have more time to kill during layovers and waits for their luggage, the study found.

The researchers recommended adding music and entertainment screens to keep people occupied, and suggested that CBP implement Bluetooth and WiFi sensor technology to track customer times in completing the customs process. The systems could collect passenger data and provide real time information as passengers transit customs. With such technology in place, the group said, individual passengers could opt-in to being tracked from the time they exit the airplane until they leave the customs area, creating a widely representative sample to know the true time it takes for passengers to move through the international terminals and what action is needed as a result.

IBM Center adds a health fellow

The IBM Center for the Business of Government has a new fellow focused on health IT and the management of federal health programs. Dr. Keith Salzman, who became IBM Federal's chief health information officer in April, was announced as the IBM Center's newest fellow July 21 by Executive Director Dan Chenok.

Chenok noted that Salzman brings a "wealth of experience ... to help frame issues and identify alternative paths forward that can enhance how government provides health services, including more than two decades of experience in delivering quality care to patients and driving the use of medical informatics within the U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System."

Intel, law enforcement agencies simulate cyberattacks

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies recently finished a two-week cybersecurity exercise that tested inter-agency responses to an attack on critical infrastructure networks.

The National Guard, the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command supported the Department of Homeland Security and FBI's responses to foreign attacks on simulated critical infrastructure networks, the command said.

"We have to build a construct to work seamlessly and effectively with our partners, and not just within the government, but also with industry and academia – outside [the Defense Department]," NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers told participants.

William Gortney, the Navy admiral nominated to lead U.S. Northern Command, said at his recent confirmation hearing that he was unaware of formal coordination between the command and DHS for responding to cyberattacks.

Governors, DOD, DHS pledge state-federal cooperation on cyber

A group of state governors has pledged closer cooperation with federal authorities on cybersecurity.

Representatives of the Council of Governors and the departments of Homeland Security and Defense agreed earlier this month on a pact to encourage information sharing and other cybersecurity tools. One provision of the agreement said the group would work to use "existing processes" for states to request aid from federal agencies during a "major cyber incident."

The plan also clarifies that the National Guard can be used for both federal and state cybersecurity-related tasks.

The 10-governor council, which is appointed by the president, is a forum for federal and state officials to coordinate on defense issues.

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