Report: TSA Spends $ 1 Billion On Bag Scanners That “May Never Meet Operational Needs”


of good-thing-it’s-fair-other-people’s-money department

Either way, “TSA” stands for “The Terrorists Won”. In exchange for endless inconvenience, inconsistently deployed security measures, and a constant stream of intrusive research and rights violations, we have achieved a theatrical form of security that is more powerful than useful.

Since screening officers continue to miss almost all contraband that passes through security checkpoints, the TSA has chosen to purchase even more screening equipment. Apparently, he’s hoping no one will say he’s not doing anything about these failures. It is throwing money at the problem. It’s something. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to fix it.

A new report [PDF] DHS Inspector General says the shiny new scanners the agency has bought to “fill the carry-on baggage screening gap” don’t do it now, and may never do. The TSA obtained 300 computed tomography (CT) scanners, which were supposed to detect a wider range of explosives and make the flight slightly less convenient by allowing passengers to keep their fluids and laptops in their respective bags. The ultimate goal is safer flight, less hassle at checkpoints and faster throughput. It failed to meet any of those goals, despite committing more than $ 1 billion to roll out CT scanners nationwide.

Instead of meeting its own four-factor test for essential abilities, the TSA’s new toys did not meet all of the self-imposed measures.

The TSA deployed 300 CT systems at airport passenger screening checkpoints that did not meet all necessary capabilities. These problems arose because DHS did not provide adequate oversight of the acquisition. Specifically, DHS authorized TSA to use an acquisition approach not recognized by DHS acquisition guidelines. Additionally, DHS allowed TSA to deploy CT systems even if they did not meet all TSA key performance parameters. DHS also did not assess the upgrade of TSA detection until TSA integrated it into the CT system. As a result, TSA risks spending over $ 700 million in appropriate future funding to purchase CT systems that may never fully meet the needs of the operational mission..

The entire deployment is expected to cost around $ 1.28 over the next ten years. And that is if it stays on track and, unlike almost all major government programs, does not result in cost overruns. In return, passengers theoretically gain more security, but only if they are willing to wait in longer lines.

TSA’s February 2018 Operational Requirements Document identified the need for a CT system capable of monitoring, on average, 200 items per hour to complete the mission. However, we determined that the TSA had purchased 300 CT systems capable of screening an average of 170 articles per hour, which is 15% less than the minimum requirement and the capacity of the AT x-ray system of approximately 354 articles per hour.

And you can say goodbye to the extra security gains. If things are busy enough, most bags will still be handled the old fashioned way.

DHS has determined that TSA should either use CT systems during times of low passenger traffic or use both CT systems and AT x-ray systems to balance high demand and reduce the impact on operations. checkpoints.

Additionally, CT scanners required an upgrade within 8 months of purchase, which is expected to deploy live during “low volume travel times”. This upgrade was necessary to bring the machines in line with what the TSA had promised they would be able to do, such as detecting contraband and reducing the need to open carry-on baggage.

The Inspector General says purchasing scanners that will gradually improve until they reach the baseline measurement used to justify their purchase is a terrible way to spend taxpayers’ money. And he firmly points the finger at the department that directly oversees the TSA.

DHS does not recognize “incremental delivery” of capability as an approved procurement approach.

And yet, he still approved this acquisition, which is expected to reach more than $ 1 billion in the next ten years. DHS greased the wheels for another TSA failure.

Despite operational testing and evaluation requirements, DHS allowed TSA to move to full production (“Produce” phase) even though the system did not meet its key performance parameter for throughput. DHS did not ask TSA to develop a remediation plan or reassess its performance requirements as required by DHS procurement guidelines. Instead, DHS approved the TSA’s decision to accept the CT system in exchange for obtaining the advanced detection capabilities it offered over AT radiography.

The IG offers three recommendations. Unfortunately, none of them are “take your receipts and get your money” or “dissolve the TSA”. He strongly suggests that DHS better manage acquisitions by following its own guidelines – those ignored to allow TSA to acquire scanners that slow down the screening process without offering measurable gains in travel security.

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Filed Under: scanners, security theater, tsa


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