The Transportation Security Administration needs to move toward a "near contactless experience" at airport checkpoints through the use of new concepts and technology, the agency's chief said in updated guidance released on Tuesday.
"As we look toward the future, we recognize the need to accelerate new and innovative screening concepts to create a near contactless experience at the checkpoint," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in the second iteration of his Administrator's Intent. "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."
TSA has been evaluating biometric technologies to make it easier to identify travelers as they enter the checkpoint without having to present identification documents.
The Administrator's Intent 2.0 outlines 28 objectives and related outcome statements to guide implementation of TSA's Strategy over the next two years. The strategy was put forth in 2018 and has three goals, which are to improve security and protect the transportation system, accelerate decision-making and fielding of technologies, and focus on the agency's workforce.
The strategy was followed shortly by Pekoske's first Administrator's Intent, which included 61 objectives.
The latest objectives stem from seven focus areas, which were developed based on feedback and outreach efforts. The focus areas include raising the insider threat security baseline; addressing the threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences for surface transportation assets; advancing passenger and baggage security capabilities, procedures, and policies; expanding the use of existing authorities or seeking to obtain additional authorities to foster innovation; encouraging innovative approaches by valuing results over Process; investing in the TSA workforce; and cybersecurity of information technology and transportation systems.
The goal of near-contactless security screening appears to reflect not just a desire to improve the passenger experience, without sacrificing security, but also the ongoing public health crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Administrator's Intent 2.0 builds upon the successes achieved to date and acknowledges the agility and adaptability necessary in our ongoing response to the COVID-19 global pandemic," Pekoske stated.
Among the objectives is the need for more research and pilot evaluations of "remote screening or lighter touch transportation security equipment and processes" for the sake of efficiency and the safety of TSA officers and passengers. Included in the related outcome is the need for mobile identity capabilities.
Another objective is aimed at developing "expertise and operational capability" for counter-drone activities at major U.S. airports, a mission that was handed to the agency late last year following an interagency review of who should be responsible for protecting the nation's airports from small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) threats. The Federal Air Marshal Service's Flight Operations division within TSA has the responsibility for leading the Counter UAS mission.
The agency is also looking at new streamlined procurement processes with a focus on "sustainable outcome-based solutions" and improving requirements delivery.
Some of the cyber security-related objectives include initiatives to reduce risk and provide "structured oversight" to the transportation systems sector and address risks from increased integration of networked systems within the sector.