Homeland Security

TSA pushes on 3D baggage scanning

Shutterstock ID 679967149 by HNWORKS 

The Transportation Security Administration has completed its first phase of an accelerated procurement of new baggage X-ray systems that will eventually provide automatic detection of suspect items in carry-on luggage at U.S. airports.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske said the agency is moving very quickly to acquire and deploy computed tomography systems.

"It's a rapid pace for federal procurement. We went from no program at all last year to an almost $100 million contract," he said.

Pekoske called computed tomography a "game changer" for airport security, since the scanners will be able to automatically detect explosives and other dangerous items in passengers' checked bags, as well as provide a three-dimensional image of those items inside carry-on bags.

Passengers eventually won't need to remove items such as laptops and common containerized liquids from their carry-ons. Those capabilities, said Pekoske, will come online in three to five years as the machines are deployed and software aboard them is upgraded.

On March 28, the agency signed a five-year, $96.8 million contract for 300 CT systems and ancillary equipment and services over five years with Edgewood, Md.-based Smiths Detection, Inc.

The contract, Pekoske said, will be followed in the coming months with another, possibly involving multiple vendors, as TSA looks to get 2,000 of the systems into U.S. airports in the next five years.

The systems under the Smiths Detection contract will begin deployment this coming summer and will be completed in 2020, according to the agency. Pekoske said the airports that will receive the newly contracted systems haven't been named.

TSA said it continues to deploy other computed tomography systems that aren't related to the Smiths Detection contract at other airports, to help it continue to develop the most effective algorithms for operations.

Last July TSA said it would expand the use of the scanners. The agency placed computed tomography units from various manufacturers in select airports for field tests in 2018. At those locations, Pekoske said, passengers no longer have to remove electronic devices from their luggage in lanes equipped with the scanners.

At the time, the agency said it wanted to have 145 of the units in airports by the end of fiscal 2019. Pekoske said the latest procurement supports that timeline.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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