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Sunday, December 3, 2023

People, Partnerships and Technology Are Key for Pekoske As He Announces His Future Vision for TSA

TSA will assign a lead executive for each objective who will develop and maintain implementation plans to identify the specific initiatives, activities, milestones, funding requirements, and risks.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske has published the third Administrator’s Intent, which outlines the agency’s near-term actions to achieve the vision and key strategic objectives in TSA’s Strategy.                                                                                        

The Administrator’s Intent 3.0 focuses on people, partnerships and technology and outlines the agency’s operational and mission support goals for the next two years.

“I am proud of the hard work and outstanding achievements the TSA workforce has made in response to objectives outlined in prior editions of the Administrator’s Intent,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said. “In this new iteration of the Administrator’s Intent, we remain steadfast in our focus on people, partnerships and technology so we can build on previous successes and provide flexibility and resiliency. We will invest in our workforce, maintain and strengthen our partnerships with transportation stakeholders, and continue to drive innovation to remain ahead of emerging threats.”

Transportation systems, be they air, land or sea, face threats from a broad spectrum of adversaries, including nation states and their proxies, foreign terrorist organizations, domestic terrorist actors, and transnational criminal organizations. TSA notes that some threats in this environment are well-established, such as terrorists who continue to target aviation with improvised explosive devices. Other threats are still emerging, the agency says, such as 3D printed non-metallic weapons and weaponized unmanned aircraft systems. Cyber threats from a range of potential actors also pose a risk to both the information systems and operational technology commonly used in transportation systems.

The Administrator’s Intent 3.0 will rally the focus and commitment of TSA’s talented workforce and the vigilance of the agency’s partners across the transportation sector to safeguard the traveling public. Developed with input and insight from government and industry partners, it provides near term actions to achieve TSA’s three strategic priorities:

  1. People: Commit to the TSA workforce by continuing to mature an organizational culture that promotes an entrepreneurial spirit and operational excellence
  2. Partnerships: Improve security and safeguard the transportation system by being agile, innovative, and ready to rapidly deploy new solutions and maximize the impact of TSA resources
  3. Technology: Accelerate action by rapidly testing new ideas, processes and technologies

The Administrator’s Intent 3.0. lists 20 objectives to be implemented from fiscal years 2023-2025, which each align with TSA’s three strategic priorities. These are:

Threat detection: Develop and assess security screening detection capabilities through consistent collaboration with stakeholders on training, technology, and use of covert testing data and other evaluation methods to capitalize on knowledge-based performance and innovative solutions.

Threat forecasting: Improve TSA’s ability to anticipate cyber risks and other emerging threats through greater understanding of their impacts on the TSA mission.

Customer experience or “CX”: Develop an integrated plan to organize, align, and communicate activities that positively influence the customer experience.

Air cargo security: Enhance air cargo security by collaborating with industry and the interagency to align policies and activities to the air cargo supply chain, encourage the testing and use of innovative screening technologies, and explore potential security gains in areas such as domestic all-cargo flights and additional classes of U.S. mail.

Advanced Air Mobility (AAM): Establish a framework to guide TSA and its partners to integrate security by design into emerging AAM systems and operating environments.

One-Stop Security (OSS): Establish OSS operations between the United States and select last point of departure airports to exempt the rescreening of transfer passengers and baggage arriving at a designated U.S. airport from designated international airports.

Business intelligence: Develop systems, tools, and processes to provide the capability to use analytics, data mining, data visualization, and other capabilities to improve agency decision-making.

Open architecture: Develop and define common and accessible technical standards, capabilities, and processes to enable an open, streamlined, and secure infrastructure for transportation security screening. 

Risk-based, outcome-focused security: Collaborate with stakeholders to assess the effectiveness of security policy and compliance activities, including the examination of security data, to proactively identify opportunities for security improvement.

Positive security culture: Define standards for a system of shared accountability for a “duty of performance,” in which employees strive to self-correct and voluntarily disclose performance issues.

Insider threat: Implement and enhance capabilities and technologies within the transportation systems sector to better identify unusual behaviors, support proactive threat assessment, identify investigative follow-up, and share relevant information with industry.

Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS): Enhance the capabilities of law enforcement and FAMS’s own field-based law enforcement across the transportation systems sector.

Organizational governance: Assess TSA’s organizational roles and responsibilities related to policy making, international engagement, acquisitions, and law enforcement functions to identify opportunities for improvement.

Drive resourcing higher: Communicate TSA’s risk-based requirements for, and non-traditional approaches to, resourcing to external partners to support mission priorities and long-term goals.

Recruitment and hiring: Improve recruitment and hiring processes by implementing strategies to assess national and regional job markets, forecast workforce requirements, and decrease time-to-hire, thereby mitigating a significant enterprise risk.

Outcome-driven contracting: Assess TSA’s current approach and methodology to contracting for services to determine appropriate courses of action to effectively and efficiently meet mission needs.

Communications: Enhance communications with the TSA workforce with an emphasis on field staff. This is intended to increase overall awareness of key issues, decisions, priorities and initiatives, and inspire positive agency advocacy.

People and culture: Nurture TSA culture to encourage innovation and collaboration, and to learn from and celebrate differences. Provide transparent communication of workforce culture attributes, activities, and improvements.

Workforce retention: Improve workforce retention by proactively monitoring and analyzing separations and implementing “people-first” strategies that cultivate employee perceptions of TSA as a career of choice. Assess TSA employment policies and practices and implement strategies to remove barriers and close gaps.

Human Capital (HC) Information Technology (IT) performance: Modernize TSA’s HC IT systems to provide an improved interface for candidates, hiring managers, TSA human resources specialists, and employees.

The Administrator’s Intent 3.0 includes potential outcomes for each of these objectives. For example, TSA could fully fund mission-critical requirements through additional Aviation Security Passenger Fee allocations and other nontraditional resourcing opportunities such as the Reimbursable Screening Services Program, gifting, cost sharing and public-private ventures.

Some of the objectives will be helped by recent developments such as rollouts of new screening and identity verification technology, and the TSA workforce pay increase included in the fiscal year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which is already reducing attrition rates by as much as 40-50 percent. But Pekoske recently testified that the pay increase must apply to all TSA staff. “I want to be clear that pay initiatives must include all TSA employees. Oftentimes many of our TSA employees who are not customer-facing are overlooked. We must acknowledge and recognize their impact and contributions to our overall mission,” the Administrator told the House Homeland Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security in June. 

TSA will now assign a lead executive for each objective to provide a measure of transparency and accountability. Each executive will be responsible for managing their objectives, including developing and maintaining implementation plans. The plans will identify the specific initiatives, activities, milestones, funding requirements, and risks and provide a measurable end state. Lead executives will also be responsible for providing regular updates on the status of their objectives and complying with all dashboard reporting requirements. Information in the dashboard will be used to brief key executives on the status of implementation. 

Since Administrator Pekoske published the Administrator’s Intent 2.0 in June 2020, the agency has accomplished key objectives that modernize and advance transportation security. Among those accomplishments, TSA:

  • Implemented a new compensation plan for all TSA employees to ensure they are paid at the same level as their counterparts in other federal agencies
  • Streamlined the budget process by implementing a plan, program, budget and execution framework
  • Enhanced checkpoint screening capabilities by procuring three-dimensional X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) and Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) equipment
  • Developed the Capability Acceptance Process to accept and use industry donations of equipment and related services
  • Addressed high attrition by conducting Transportation Security Officer fast-track hiring events at critical need airports
  • Enhanced cybersecurity resilience for the nation’s critical pipelines, passenger/freight rail carriers and airlines/airports
  • Adopted private sector technologies and business practices to advance innovation within the agency
  • Expanded training pathways to support career progression and established next generation capabilities to facilitate distance, mobile, and virtual learning and opened TSA Academy West, a new training center for new Transportation Security Officers.

The new Administrator’s Intent 3.0 aligns with the Department of Homeland Security 2023 Priorities, national strategies and directives, including the National Cybersecurity Strategy and the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government.

Read the full Administrator’s Intent 3.0 as TSA

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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