TSA Press Office
Testimony & Speeches
Keynote Address at
The International Air Transport Association Security and Facilitation Forum
June 18, 2008
The International Air Transport Association has been an important partner for TSA, and you have been there for us since day one. I know that I can count on you for fair, thoughtful comment, and I know that you make your points strongly in private and diplomatically in public. We have a shared commitment and a shared responsibility to protect air travel and we work together well in that critical mission. On behalf of all of us at TSA, thank you for your commitment to the security of the world's flying public and for your spirit of partnership with us.
But we are not done yet. We have a lot yet to do and we must do it together.
I am grateful for the opportunity to meet with you this afternoon and I would like to discuss how I view our on-going work together. There are three aspects of our work together that I would like to talk about:
- The threat environment;
- Harmonization of security measures; and
- How we might go forward together.
The Threat Environment
We are in an elevated threat environment. We have been at Aviation Orange for almost two years now and unfortunately, based on what we know today, that is exactly where we should be. Are we coming down from Orange? No. We see a general threat environment that continues to show activity. In the last 12 months we have seen serious, Al Qaeda-related attacks in Glasgow and Algeria, and major plots disrupted in Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Turkey. Not to mention the trial going on right now in the UK on the liquids plot from the summer of 2006. The pace of the next twelve months is not likely to lag that of the last twelve months.
Clearly, the way the UK broke up the plot was the right way.
Terrorist targeting is not obvious or predictable. As we have seen a number of times, the terrorist planner designs an attack around the barriers and rules that we have erected. This presents a problem: If we keep putting up barriers and they go around them, how do we get ahead of them?
The answer is we don't put up barriers that cannot be changed. I'll talk about how in a few moments, as we go forward.
Harmonization of Security Measures
One of my most important responsibilities is connecting us around the world, so we can contact one another at a moment's notice. In 2007, TSA created the Office of Global Strategies, one of the most significant things we did at TSA.
We are faced with the challenge of aviation security as a complex and global issue, where each State has its own laws, capabilities, technology, competing interests and threats. The goal of our Global Strategies Office is to develop and harmonize these diverse methods—and at the same time, to help determine global threat and vulnerability.
The level of security in the US is tied to the other nations with whom we share air service. The next step in our coordination is with the private sector and the public at large. Our goal is to create a web from government-to-government and government-to-private sector companies.
We recognize that each nation's aviation system is unique in terms of size and resources and that each will achieve compliance through techniques and technologies best fitted to its capabilities. Not every country can afford a silver bullet technology. And I am not an advocate for that kind of silver bullet security.
There is no nation that cannot afford smart security.
One of the principal attributes of the security approach that I advocate is that multi-purpose, flexible, mobile security systems are not expensive. Large capital budgets are not required. Huge investments and structures are not needed. All that we need for an effective linked, layered security system is a common approach based on our shared values and commitment to each other.
The U.S. perspective on security is focused on low-cost, sustainable security.
TSA Going Forward
What are the magic ingredients?
There are three prongs to TSA's approach to upgrade security: Technology, people, and process. Technology means faster, better security solutions. People means training: We are training every single Transportation Security Officer and frontline manager in methods to calm down the security checkpoint and to notice the anomalies that stand out. Process means we are not standing still. Our SOP is dynamic to stay ahead of threats. We are getting rid of the tether of, "If I follow the guidelines, I'll be okay."
We call this Checkpoint Evolution.
We recently announced the first major, widespread technology upgrade checkpoint redesign in thirty years. A full prototype checkpoint is being tested in Baltimore, thanks to the tremendous leadership and support from Baltimore's BWI airport and the airlines involved. You can see components of the checkpoint improvement redesign at other airports before the end of the summer travel season.
It is not a single model, but a menu of tools, with a different mix at different airports. But there are common process drivers—starting with the mandate to calm it down. From a security point of view, a calm checkpoint is a much better place to work. Chaos is our enemy. Chaos can allow terrorists to camouflage what they're doing. As the checkpoint becomes calm, those with intent to do harm become much more visible to us. They stand out in the layer of security.
You need people watching for those signs of stress that are ready to act on that information immediately. TSA's behavior observation program is this principle in action. It is the linchpin of our security.
Our Behavior Detection Officers as well as our Travel Document Checkers have proven enormously successful at providing purposefully unpredictable security measuresto thwart someone who may know our regulations, technology, and procedures.
We have the perfect example in an incident that happened a few months ago at Orlando Airport. A Behavior Detection Manager, in plainclothes, saw a passenger acting in a suspicious manner and he saw a few things that caught his interest as a trained behavior specialist. Along with additional Behavior Detection Officers, they intercepted his checked baggage before the bags went to screening. When they searched his bags, they found everything you need to build a bomb.
He didn't make it to the checkpoint and his bags never left the lobby. He was intercepted and was taken into custody. This is layered security in action. It is part of our new paradigm to recognize and use the skill of our workforce, to add layers of security, to go on offense. The real finds of counterterrorism are in the Travel Document Checker and Behavior Detection programs.
Similar to what we have done in looking at our existing people and processes, we have also added security measures in the technology area suited to the adaptive and patient terrorist threat that we face.
When we look at the global threat, should we devote our resources and our energies to rushing out more and more sophisticated and expensive machinery? Or are we better served by more flexible and mobile lower tech layers of security where each individual layer has vulnerabilities but when linked together form a formidable system?
Clearly, TSA is spending millions of dollars every year on advanced technology to form the foundation of our security baseline. However we are spending more of our resources on technology that is multi-purpose and mobile.
The key is to buy technology platforms where the upgrades can be in software. Our plan is to separate the software from the hardware, so that we can achieve the best products of each.
In terms of fixed technology assets, TSA is deploying multi-view Advanced X-ray machines for carry-on baggage. Advanced X-ray is a powerful platform on which to build additional software algorithms as new detection technologies become available, including for liquids. Six hundred of these new AT X-ray machines will be deployed this year.
In the world of terrorism, there are no borders. Borders and rules only restrict nations and people who recognize our common values and respect our legal systems. Terrorists do not play by the rules. They exploit the gaps that exist because only we play by the rules.
As each nation puts in place security measures against a common enemy, each of us operate within our own cultural and legal norms, and while they are similar, they are not identical. That creates gaps. Therefore, one of TSA's top priorities of the last two and a half years is to harmonize U.S. security measures with global partners.
The most notable of these efforts was the common response to the threat of novel liquid explosives in 2006. That was the first time since 9/11 in which security measures were jointly developed in advance. My personal thanks to all of you. During that critical time, we knew the people on the other side of the ocean were with us. Your partnership and friendship is certainly very valuable to me.
Clearly, we understand that the question is not that we have to hold the line since 9/11. It is clear to me that airlines deeply care. The aviation community's life depends on security. We, as much as airlines, need to have a checkpoint process that is calm, smooth, quick, to serve all our needs well.
At the end of the day, just as you have been since the start of the day, we are all in this together.