TSA Officers at Boston Logan Airport. Photo by Boston Logan Airport.

Pekoske’s Plan: What’s in TSA’s New Roadmap?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has published an outline of new key objectives to continuously improve security and safeguard the nation’s transportation systems.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske presented his objectives intended to guide the agency and its workforce over the next two years on managing new global security risks to safeguard all modes of transportation. The “Administrator’s Intent 2.0,” addresses tangible security threats across seven broad categories: insider risk, surface transportation, checkpoint strategies, workforce support, cybersecurity, outcome-oriented policy management, and utilization of TSA’s security authorities.   

Pekoske says the roadmap also includes lessons learned thus far from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“While there will undoubtedly be more to learn in the months ahead, we leaned heavily on our leadership principles in the early days of the crisis to prepare the agency and traveling public for the response and recovery phases of COVID-19. As we strove to adapt quickly and build resilience into our system, TSA leveraged its unique authorities to ensure the wellbeing of the workforce and the traveling public by modifying existing human resource and security policies and procedures.

“As we look towards the future, we recognize the need to accelerate new and innovative screening concepts to create a near contactless experience at the checkpoint. We will continue to pursue advancements in technology and procedures to allow for more automation as we provide for the security of the traveling public in the future, no matter the threat.”

Administrator’s Intent 2.0 establishes new objectives and timelines, which were developed with input and insight from government and industry partners. The new objectives represent priorities for implementation through fiscal year 2022 as well as the steps to guide the TSA workforce to safeguard all modes of transportation by raising the baseline of aviation security.

The new objectives are divided into three categories: Improve Security and Safeguard the Transportation System, Accelerate Action, and Commit to our People.

The first category encompasses eleven key objectives:

  • Align, integrate, and manage canine detection capabilities across all modes of transportation to better detect explosive threats.
  • Build Agency expertise and operational capability for mitigating risk from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
  • Enhance the identification and sharing of emerging transportation threat information by enhancing TSA’s intelligence and vetting operations.
  • Expand the use of TSA PreCheck™ Application Program fees to improve the TSA PreCheck™ passenger experience.
  • Enhance TSA’s vetting and credentialing activities through expanded approvals for data use and new or refined information technology solutions for vetting and identity verification.
  • Advance cybersecurity initiatives to reduce cybersecurity risk and provide structured oversight to the Transportation Systems Sector.
  • Address the risks from continued integration of advanced electronic and network systems within the Transportation Systems Sector and in other sectors.
  • Conduct One Stop Security arrangements in coordination with industry stakeholders and international partners to enhance global aviation security and improve passenger experience.
  • Enhance security policy processes to develop and implement timely, data-driven, and risk-informed policy and procedures to enhance security outcomes and address current and emerging threats.
  • Enhance the cargo supply chain by pursuing policy that augments security requirements for existing regulated entities, and provides opportunities for inclusion of additional entities, such as fulfillment centers; applying cargo security controls in line with revised international standards affecting screening requirements for all-cargo carriers.
  • Implement a framework to enhance surface transportation security, through structured oversight of surface stakeholders, that incorporates a strategy to ensure long-term integration of security practices across surface transportation modes through coordination of regulatory issues, infrastructure needs, and security assessment and training programs for intermodal operations.

The second grouping, Accelerate Action, focuses on establishing and promoting mechanisms to foster continuous improvement, in order to best anticipate and counter the changing threat across transportation modes. The nine objectives in this mission area are as follows:

  • Develop a process to increase the quality and speed of decision making at TSA by outlining decision-making principles and adopting business methods and solutions that leverage technology and proven business practices.
  • Define and implement a business intelligence capability to provide improved data sharing, data analytics, informed decision making and operational automation.
  • Seek and use innovative procurement processes that are more streamlined, allow for smart risk taking, lead to a more efficient execution of the procurement process, and achieve sustainable outcome-based solutions allowing for a continuous refresh of the procurement process.
  • Advance TSA’s capability to leverage and incorporate innovations in artificial intelligence, identity management, machine learning and screening automation across the TSA enterprise to advance TSA’s security mission across both the TSA enterprise and the Transportation Systems Sector.
  • Research and pilot remote screening and contactless or lighter touch transportation security equipment and processes to both improve efficiency and enhance TSO and passenger safety.
  • Implement business methods and solutions that enable TSA leadership and the workforce to adopt and leverage technologies and business practices that have proven to be successful in advancing innovation in the private sector.
  • Institutionalize a comprehensive strategic planning capability to advance the planning culture and expertise at TSA.
  • Seek innovative funding models that enhance TSA’s security mission.
  • Improve, enhance and centralize TSA’s enterprise-wide Insider Threat Program, and develop new capabilities to increase security across the transportation sector against risks from an insider.

The third and final set of objectives, Commit to our People, is focused on hiring, training and equipping the TSA workforce:

  • Strengthen enterprise-wide workforce requirements and align with current employee skills and experience through manpower and workforce analysis.
  • Create and enforce formal mechanisms to facilitate information sharing, dissemination and unified effort across program offices, from and with the field.
  • Expand and enhance training pathways to support TSA’s career progression initiatives for employees and emerging leaders.
  • Establish next generation training capabilities that leverage innovation and technology to facilitate distance, mobile, and virtual learning.
  • Establish and maintain a robust framework of compensation tools with a focus on inclusion, career development, performance recognition, service pay, and non-monetary benefits.

The Administrator’s Intent 2.0 follows the first Administrator’s Intent which was released in 2018. The new roadmap has a strong – although not overly obvious – focus on technology, as well as the workforce. It highlights the need to modernize TSA’s information technology infrastructure and take up new and emerging technology such as counter-drone systems and contactless transportation security solutions. TSA also does not shy away from addressing recently discovered weaknesses, putting canine detection teams at the top of its list for management attention.

Read the Administrator’s Intent 2.0 at TSA

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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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