TSA readies second phase of airport IT rollout

Who's in charge

Patrick Schambach

Assistant Administrator for IT and CIO

Randy Null

Associate Administrator for Security Technology and Chief Technology Officer

Mark Emery

Acting Deputy CIO

Sources for Inside TSA include TSA and Input of Reston, Va.

'We are now waiting for the final word on the supplemental budget for the kickoff on the rest of the white phase.'

' CIO Patrick Schambach

Henrik G. DeGyor

The Transportation Security Administration is awaiting the kickoff of the second stage of its airport security IT plan, according to CIO Pat Schambach.

'What we realized doing the rollout [of airport security IT] is that we would not have the money, time or flexibility to put all the technology in all airports in one pass,' Schambach said.

Accordingly, TSA launched its 'red, white and blue' technology rollout approach.
  • The red phase, which involved deploying notebook PCs with dialup access, cell phones and pagers at 429 airports, is complete.

  • TSA is poised to launch the white phase, in which it will add connectivity via LANs within airports and WAN links from the airports to headquarters.

  • The agency is still planning for the blue phase, or the technologically enabled airport of the future, which will involve advanced sensors, video feeds and perimeter access security linked back to TSA headquarters.

Schambach said implementing the red phase cost the agency about $125 million. The white phase could cost another $125 million or more, depending on the allocation of funds from the fiscal 2003 supplemental appropriation.

'We have two pilot locations for the white phase' Schambach said, Love Field in Dallas and Charlotte International Airport in North Carolina.

Bandwidth bandwagon

The white phase will involve activating a frame relay network for the WAN that will connect airports to TSA headquarters in Arlington, Va., Schambach said. Unisys Corp. is responsible for building the network under its Information Technology Managed Services contract. The vendor has subcontracted to AT&T Corp. and Sprint Corp. for the bandwidth the network will need.

'We are now waiting for the final word on the supplemental budget for the kickoff on the rest of the white phase,' Schambach said. Agency officials do not plan to field the white phase at all 429 airports this year but to complete the deployment over the next two years.

Meanwhile, TSA planners are working to perfect the agency's approach to biometric identification, as part of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program, Schambach said.

The agency plans to establish standards for the credentials that will rely on two separate biometrics: one called the reference biometric will associate employees with their cards, and the other, the access biometric, would permit movement into controlled areas.

'The reason we need to keep them separate is that for any given area the investment in biometric access technology is done by the airport, so if they have invested in hand scans or retina scans, we can support them with the second biometric,' Schambach said.

Several airports have purchased biometric equipment, he said, while others use bar codes or magnetic-stripe technology.

The TWIC cards, which will support various biometrics, will be backed up by two kinds of databases, he said: a biometric database on site, and a TSA database at headquarters that will maintain a list of individuals approved for access.

The second database won't require biometric information. 'All we need is a record that issuance has been made,' Schambach said.

Making a list, checking it TWICe

TSA will be able to activate or suspend a worker's TWIC card on the central database, and to create a hot list of individuals whose card privileges have been suspended nationwide.

The agency plans TWIC pilots at port agencies in the Los Angeles'Long Beach region as well as in the Philadelphia'New Jersey'Delaware area. In both areas, authorities operate seaports as well as airports. TSA and the local agencies will deploy TWIC cards to longshoremen and truck drivers as well as airport workers.

TSA on April 23 announced a $3.8 million, 150-day contract with Maximus Corp. of Reston, Va., to evaluate TWIC technologies used at the pilot locations for the biometric cards.

Schambach is carrying out the agency's IT tasks with a federal employee staff of about 110 and a contractor contingent of 350. TSA is spending about $10 million monthly on IT, he said.

'Because we started with a blank sheet of paper [in setting up TSA last year], we made the determination that all applications would be Web-enabled,' Schambach said. 'We have rule-based access control.'

Employees' levels of access are determined by their roles in the organization.

'We are trying to remain mainstream in the technology,' Schambach said, 'and use standards-based, commercial off-the-shelf systems and services.'

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