Homeland Security Today’s annual Holiday Hero Awards honor those who have made lasting contributions to our nation’s security and risen to meet myriad challenges, recognizing those who have dedicated their careers to making our nation safer within the homeland security enterprise and those who have used their talents, determination, or platform to contribute to a safer country.
Here are the winners in the transportation security field who go the extra mile to keep our skies, roads, rail and seas safe for travelers. (Read the full list of HSToday Award winners and Mission Award winners.)
The Acquisition Excellence awards recognize a division, agency or effort that has improved the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of the acquisition of technology, products or services that support the frontline missions of homeland security. Projects must demonstrate tangible benefits and improved efficiency in the acquisition process.
TSA: Flexible Agile Scalable Teams (FAST), Richard Melrose, Branch Chief and Supervising Contracting Officer, and Cristian Rodriguez, Branch Manager, Application Development Division
With FAST, TSA is continuing to drive a system-wide modernization of its legacy systems across various portfolios, while breaking down siloes (transitioning from waterfall to Agile methodologies). It’s an iterative evolution, applying new tools and processes to create a wholly new and transformative IT culture within the TSA. The tools, resources and technologies in this transformation include enhancements made to the TSA’s public website, its public and employee mobile apps (e.g., myTSA mobile app), enterprise case management system, and a new data-tracking process that informs the agency’s No-Fly list.
For the Enterprise portfolio alone, FAST has accelerated Agile transformation with the delivery of more than 130 releases since contract inception by more than 20 active teams. Through new workforce enablement and technology modernized strategies, the team has been migrating over 85 applications from legacy SharePoint, Siebel, and Oracle APEX technologies to newer platforms, such as .NET and Java running on Azure-hosted cloud-native technologies and Salesforce Cloud. Not only is this transforming the speed and agility of the organization but also driving down costs for TSA.
Richard Melrose serves as the Branch Chief and Supervising Contracting Officer for the set of Flexible Agile Scalable Teams (FAST) contracts awarded to multiple vendors to customize and integrate software and applications for various TSA organizations. Each blanket purchase agreement (BPA) supports offices within various Flexible Agile Scalable Teams (FAST) portfolios, including enterprise support, human capital, security operations, law enforcement, and digital services and workflow collaboration. The contracting approach is one of the most innovative in the federal government, allowing TSA to quickly contract with vendors to provide agile scrum teams of a specific complexity based on a single one-page description of the scope sought for delivery. This vehicle allows TSA to quickly ramp up delivery teams with custom or software as a service/cloud skills on demand. A set of standardized, robust DevSecOps capabilities allow the agile teams to rapidly deliver code to production. The approach has not only facilitated the delivery of new mission critical services for the enterprise but also helped drive down costs by modernizing TSA IT infrastructure using SaaS cloud services.
Cristian Rodriguez serves as the Branch Manager in the Application Development Division within TSA Office of Information Technology (OIT), with oversight of the agency’s Flexible Agile Scalable Team (FAST) contracts to support the technology portfolios for the Enterprise, Security Operations, Law Enforcement, and Human Capital offices. Rodriguez combines traditional and agile principles and processes in building independent customer-funded application development programs, as well as administering more focused TSA Agile Services contracts for faster application development and deployment.
Each year, Homeland Security Today honors shining stars in the community who are making their own unique, invaluable contributions to advance the mission of keeping America safer from myriad threats. Their strong commitment to mission touches every part of their work, from day-to-day operations to special projects and work in the community.
Jason Lim, Identity Management Capability Manager, Transportation Security Administration
Over the past year, Jason Lim has driven strategic transformation at TSA, impacting millions of travelers daily, by implementing innovative biometric and digital identity (DI) solutions that increase traveler throughput and secure TSA checkpoints. In addition to its checked and carry-on baggage screening mission, TSA must verify the identities of 2-3 million passengers per day at more than 400 federalized airports across the United States. Historically, this task has been executed manually by Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) by comparing the passenger in front of them with the photo on the passenger’s identity document (e.g., driver’s license, passport) and cross- checking that with the passenger’s boarding pass. In Fall 2018, Lim led TSA’s effort building a strategic roadmap to explore automation of these repetitive and resource-intensive tasks, namely through the integration of biometrics (e.g., facial recognition) and digital identity solutions into the security checkpoint. The strategy articulated a collaborative, biometric vision for TSA and its aviation security partners. Using new and emerging technologies, Lim and his team have aimed to significantly enhance security effectiveness, streamline operations, and transform the passenger experience while preserving passenger privacy and civil liberties. These goals and objectives were restated and amplified in the release of TSA’s 2022 Identity Management Roadmap.
Lim’s approach focuses on measuring technical excellence not only on how well it solves initial stakeholder problems but by anticipating its impact and relevancy to long-term transportation security, thereby extending the impact of the government’s investment. His technical acumen, desire to constantly improve user experience, stakeholder engagement proficiency, and commitment to fostering inclusivity in developing secure standards-driven technology set him apart. His accomplishments are evident in his ability to deliver transformative solutions that are helping airlines and airports resume and improve operations. Lim saw early on the value these solutions could bring to TSA and focused his team on piloting these technologies, which bolster TSA’s ongoing efforts to streamline the traveler experience. Further, as air travel continues to resume and recover, TSA and its partners must continue to be ready to adopt new technology, such as mDLs and DIs, as adoption and use of these credentials are rapidly growing. With projected adoption rates of over 50 percent in the next 10 years, Lim honors TSA’s commitment to the president’s December 2021 Executive Order on improving customer experience and service delivery for the American people. His coalition and consensus-building approach on the federal side enables him to constructively engage with industry stakeholders in both commercial aviation and the technology sector to make measurable progress on shared public-private sector priorities.
Lim was recently quoted in the Washington Post’s article about traveler rights surrounding new plans to add facial recognition scanning at major airports. Lim recently alluded to the story on LinkedIn. “Just to reiterate, given the wide diversity of the millions of passengers moving through airport checkpoints daily, TSA is grounding its exploration of biometric and digital identity solutions in rigorous scientific study and analysis to ensure the full benefits of these technologies are realized. Efforts will continue to ensure checkpoint solutions are designed to mitigate performance variations and protect passenger privacy.”
Julie Scanlon, Executive Assistant Administrator for Enterprise Support, Transportation Security Administration
Julie Scanlon serves as the Executive Assistant Administrator for Enterprise Support at TSA. In this role, Julie is responsible for overseeing support functions across the agency’s human resources, acquisition, procurement, training, and logistics areas to deliver TSA’s mission. With oversight of the human capital organization, Julie had to face the need for more TSA checkpoint staff to meet ever-increasing travel demand as the general public began to travel post-pandemic. With an incredibly tight labor market, candidates expected competitive pay and the ability to start work quickly. Given the complexity of the hiring process, the typical Transportation Security Officer (TSO) could wait as long as 90 days before starting the position — a period of time in which candidates could easily find competitive positions elsewhere. TSA addressed the needs by introducing a new security position for checkpoints that provided a path to promotion to TSO and flexibility in the hiring process to reduce hiring timelines.
Julie helped design the first new TSA security operations position — the Special Security Assistant (SSA) — in an effort to increase checkpoint staffing to meet traveler demand. The new position was intended to rapidly add staff by expediting the hiring timeline and allowing new hires to transition to the TSO position in time. To date, TSA has received more than 5,000 SSA applications and hired nearly 400 new staff. By streamlining phases of the hiring process, TSA was able to reduce the average time-to-hire for the SSA position by 33 percent when compared with TSOs. Joint hiring events were held that allowed candidates to apply to both positions and complete multiple assessments, improving the candidate experience through expedited hiring. Candidates were hired in less than 2 weeks from application to entry on demand (EOD).