Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske was at the TSA Systems Integration Facility (TSIF) on September 15 to meet with the local TSA workforce and conduct one of his regular virtual town hall meetings, which was broadcast to agency employees nationwide.
TSIF is a 128,000 square-foot laboratory environment in which TSA performs tests, vulnerability assessments and risk analysis on emerging checkpoint technologies in a simulated environment. Located in Arlington, Va., the TSIF serves as a testing ground for state-of-the-art technologies to be implemented at airport checkpoints. The facility contains a fully functional Baggage Handling System (BHS) to support checked baggage screening testing, an open area capable of testing cargo and vehicle screening systems, and an area devoted to passenger screening systems. The TSIF allows TSA to test equipment and technologies in a live environment without impacting the operations of an actual airport.
“TSA is fortunate to have a dedicated laboratory to test new and emerging technologies. In short order, advanced screening technologies have become a top priority for us as a response to the pandemic. The TSIF laboratory has been instrumental in getting solutions tested, vetted and deployed,” Pekoske said. “It takes teams of TSA staff and industry partners alike working together to ensure the TSA checkpoints are healthy and secure for airline passengers as well as our mission-focused frontline workforce.”
TSA continuously seeks ways to improve the checkpoint experience by testing technologies at the TSIF long before they appear at a TSA checkpoint. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated agency efforts to implement technologies that help contain the virus and protect the workforce and passengers. Many of these technologies reduce physical contact, while enhancing transportation security.
The self-service credential authentication technology currently being piloted at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) was previously tested at TSIF. The pilot at DCA validates a passenger’s identity automatically by matching a photo taken when they arrive at a DCA checkpoint with the photo on their identification.
The increased deployment of computed tomography checkpoint scanners that provide 3-D imaging was also previously tested at the TSIF. The new CT scanners use 3-D imagery that allows TSA officers to manipulate the image on screen to get a better view of a bag’s contents and often clear items without having to open a carry-on bag. The new technology provides critical explosives detection capabilities at the checkpoint and improves the capability for TSA officers to determine whether an item inside a carry-on bag is a possible threat. Its use represents an improved security threat detection capability at the checkpoint while reducing the need for pulling bags aside to be opened, thus reducing physical contact.
Pekoske has conducted virtual town hall meetings with the entire TSA workforce via live web stream from airports, the agency’s headquarters and now TSIF. He has held 21 virtual town hall meetings since March.