The Transportation Security Administration is moving quickly on acquisition plans to put "game-changing" 3D baggage scanning systems in place.
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.