DHS is Considering Self-Service Airport Security

The Department of Homeland Security is looking for information on self-service security systems for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This may sound like a bizarre solution to lengthy lines at airports, but the request for information (RFI) says the systems would work much like existing screening and not compromise security levels.

Airports already deploy some self-service security methods, such as checking in your own bags, but DHS is seeking to take this one stage further and offer an entire passenger-friendly screening process to support the Apex Screening at Speed (SaS) initiative.

The RFI says the technology could “transform the TSA PreCheck concept of operations”. It says solutions must enable a self-sufficient experience in the passenger screening process, and allow for passenger on-person screening and divestment of personal property (for X-ray screening) to occur in a single step, compared to the two distinct steps that exist at airports today. The technology would enable passengers to directly receive on-person alarm information while divesting, and allow for the passenger self-resolution of alarms through continued divestment to reduce instances where a pat-down/secondary screening procedure would be necessary. Above all, any new solution must maintain or improve current security levels at the airport checkpoint.

DHS is soliciting information about solutions that may be rapidly developed to detect weapons and organic threat items hidden on passengers without the same level of TSO engagement normally present in the screening process.

The solution would be deployed in conjunction with an X-ray system and an Automated Screening Lane (ASL) so that a passenger may be screened while they complete the divestiture process for inspection of their accessible property. It should be capable of utilizing the natural motion of the divesting passenger to achieve thorough inspection for concealed items and provide near real-time feedback to the passenger if additional divestiture is necessary.

Crucially, the passenger will only be allowed to leave the divestiture station if they have been cleared by this solution. In instances where an alarm cannot be resolved through passenger divestment, a TSO may adjudicate any unresolved alarms.

DHS is requesting information from vendors regarding feasibility, technological capability, and general levels of effort required to develop such a concept. This information may be used by DHS Science and Technology Directorate to refine requirements and inform strategy towards investing in the development of such a concept.

If successful, self-service security could not only make the check-in process more pleasant for passengers and increase throughput for busy routes, but also solve the problem of transportation security officer (TSOs) deployment as the TSOs would not have to process every person, leaving them more time for situations where they are needed. At a recent Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing, the issue of the TSA workforce arose, specifically whether TSOs are underpaid and overstretched.

Interested parties should respond to the RFI by December 4.

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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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