TSA is WAN step closer

In the first phase, TSA concentrated on the employees' basic IT needs.

'TSA's Mark Emery

New agency moves into the second phase of its IT deployment

The Transportation Security Administration plans by December to connect most of the country's 429 airports through a WAN to improve information sharing.

The network is one of the first steps to completing an information portal that will provide law enforcement officials, airport workers and the public a single face for airport security information.

Mark Emery, TSA's deputy CIO, said last month that the enterprise portal will play a large role in building the IT infrastructure within the new agency.

'All of our e-government projects flow down from the portal,' he said at the FedFocus 2003 conference sponsored by Input of Chantilly, Va.

'We need to know what are our services to citizens and to businesses, and how we can organize our information to make sure that it is available in a secure way through that portal,' he said.

Emery said the portal must be integrated with TSA's back-office systems so airport and security officials can tie information together easily.

The implementation of the WAN also brings TSA into the second part of its three-phase IT deployment. In the first phase, called the red package, TSA concentrated on the employees' basic IT needs, such as desktop computers, cell phones and a dial-up virtual private network, Emery said. About 65,000 employees have e-mail access on a network of about 10,000 computer stations.

Host with the most

The second phase'the white package'will include airport LANs and an off-site application hosting center. Emery said TSA is close to setting up the hosting center, which will give employees access to sophisticated applications in a secure environment. TSA installed everyday software such as word processing programs on desktop PCs, he said.

The final stage of TSA's IT deployment, called the blue package, would include electronic surveillance and facial-recognition systems, Emery said.

TSA is managing this work with a staff of only 100 federal IT employees through its $1 billion managed services contract with Unisys Corp., Emery said.

He said an agency the size of TSA likely would have an IT staff of more than 1,500. He said TSA's managed service process could be a model for the proposed Homeland Security Department.

'This is the same kind of thing the president is asking for because it frees us from some of the traditional acquisition roadblocks,' Emery said.

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