Speaking at an American Council for Technology event last week, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Chief Information Officer Yemi Oshinnaiye said he is creating positions for a Chief Technology Officer and a Chief Data Officer at TSA.
It may come as a surprise to some to learn that TSA does not currently have a dedicated CTO and CDO, with much of these responsibilities instead falling to Oshinnaiye and his team. Oshinnaiye was appointed as the Chief Information Officer for TSA in May 2022. He is responsible for Information Technology software delivery and support, innovation, cybersecurity and all facets of IT resourcing that TSA uses to accomplish its mission.
TSA did have a designated a CTO in the early 2010s, Executive Vice President at K2 Security Screening Group and former Acting Assistant Administrator for the TSA Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis, Steve Karoly told HSToday. “At that time, the CTO focused on improving the detection and false alarm capabilities of TSA’s explosive detection technologies.”
“On my side right now at TSA, we don’t have a CTO or a CDO,” Oshinnaiye said during his keynote speech at the ACT-Industry Advisory Council Digital Transformation Summit on Feb. 22. “I’m creating them because that’s something we need.”
Karoly explained that in 2016 TSA created the Innovation Task Force and two years later established the Chief Innovation Officer position. Then, in 2019, organizations within the federal government were required to designate a CDO who is charged with leading their organizations to leverage the power of data.
MeriTalk, which co-organized the event with ACT-IAC, reported that Oshinnaiye indicated that both the CTO and CDO positions are critical to work alongside a CIO to further digital transformation. Collaboration, he said, is the key. “We have to get better at connecting fluidly so we can get to the place we call transformation,” Oshinnaiye said.
Karoly told us that TSA has a plethora of data to enable better data-driven decisions within TSA operations in the field and within the everyday running of TSA business. His colleague, Keith Jeffries, Vice President of K2 Security Screening Group and former Federal Security Director at Los Angeles International Airport said the creation of the CTO and CDO positions allow TSA to remain forward thinking. “By creating these two new positions, TSA remains dedicated to staying in front of emerging threats to the transportation system,” Jeffries said. “As the threat evolves, TSA must remain forward thinking and flexible. These two positions are a step in that direction. In my opinion, these positions ensure that the TSA has a disciplined approach to identifying technologies that it may need or consider to remain ahead of emerging threats.”
Oshinnaiye also said at the event that he is looking for technology solutions that can help with the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) workload, after spending several weeks visiting TSA checkpoints around the country to obtain an up to date working picture of the responsibilities of TSOs.
“Human error is a reality and new technologies will not only help to better identify threats, it will also decrease the human error element and increase operational efficiencies as well,” Jeffries told us.
Karoly added that TSA has been looking at and assessing new technologies for the past several years to help reduce the TSO workload. “Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) applications, machine learning (ML), and the use of process automated software are some of the technologies that will be/are being implemented to help the TSO with the execution of their tasks.”
The use of TSA’s Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) systems is a great example of how a technology can be used to reduce the TSO workload while improving the passenger experience. “These, and other, technologies will allow the TSO to better focus on what’s important…security screening tasks.” Karoly said.
He underscored the importance of balanced investment. “Getting to the next level of improvements in security effectiveness and security efficiency will require a disciplined and conscious effort in maintaining the balance of security’s three-legged stool: technology, people, and doctrines/procedures.
“An equal Investment in all three of those legs is a necessity for the stool to remain balanced. Too much investment in one and not enough investment in another will cause the stool to wobble and possibly fall over. Technology modifications to existing deployed systems and the introduction of new technologies are both needed to keep pace with the threat.
“Ensuring proper resources are provided to the TSA to implement its workforce strategy of retaining, recruiting, and training the TSO workforce is just as important as the investments it devotes to technology. Security doctrines and security procedures provide the guidance that TSO’s need to execute their mission.”