TSA's colorful vision 'is coming to be'

TSA's colorful vision 'is coming to be'

Unisys managing partner Tom Conaway


The first stage of the Transportation Security Administration's IT infrastructure is now in place and communicating under the $1 billion IT Management Services contract, Unisys Corp.'s homeland security managing partner Tom Conaway said today.

'In the initial red phase, we delivered a suite of equipment to the federal security directors at the airports,' said Conaway, a former Air Force captain. The red package included:

  • Dell Computer Corp. servers and desktop, notebook and handheld PCs

  • Cisco Systems Inc. routers and voice over IP telephone systems

  • Teleconferencing equipment from Polycom Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.

  • Uninterruptible power systems from American Power Conversion Corp. of West Kingston, R.I.

  • Virtual private networks from several vendors for secure communications with Homeland Security Department headquarters

  • Hosting center servers running Sun Solaris

  • Cell phones, pagers, TVs, copiers and other office equipment.

  • Not all the TSA sites are at airports, Conaway added, and some don't yet have all their office space or staffs.

    'In the second phase, the white package, we'll expand LAN and WAN connectivity to headquarters and the hosting centers,' he said. 'The blue phase will see all the connectivity in place, and we'll move on to improving business practices and adding mission-critical applications.'

    At present, the mission-critical apps include:

  • Screener work force scheduling software from Sabre Airline Solutions of Southlake, Texas

  • Kronos Time and Attendance software from Kronos Inc. of Chelmsford, Mass.

  • Database management systems from Oracle Corp.

  • Until the WAN is operating, the security directors are running scheduling software on their notebooks, Conaway said, but 'ultimately it will run out of the hosting centers' managed by subcontractor IBM Corp.

    'The Oracle apps are used for the e-government operations platform,' Conaway said. 'There's no back-office stuff yet.'

    Asked whether the outsourcing approach pioneered by TSA CIO Patrick Schambach was spreading in DHS, Conaway said Unisys is providing support to DHS headquarters.

    All the hardware and software arrives at a central point where Unisys and its subcontractors configure, ship, install and test it at more than 400 sites. 'We have quite a crew'more than 35 companies,' he said.

    How does he manage so many elements? 'I'm psychic,' he joked, but his current planning tool is Microsoft Project. He said he's looking at higher-end project management products and at Linux as an operating system. He also uses design and configuration tools from IBM subsidiary Rational Software Corp. of Cupertino, Calif.

    The best tool, however, is 'a good hammer for breaking down barriers,' Conaway said. 'The vision is coming to be.'

    (Revised 10 a.m. June 24, 2003)


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