Administrator explores expanding TSA’s capabilities with innovation partners

Friday, April 19, 2024
Administrator Pekoske and TSA leaders met with innovation partners in Silicon Valley (TSA Photo)

Administrator Pekoske and other TSA leaders met with innovation partners to explore ways TSA can make the most of commercial technology to get advanced solutions in the hands of employees faster.

TSA’s collaboration with Silicon Valley and federal partners aligns with the first strategic priority in the Administrator’s Intent 3.0 to “improve security and safeguard the transportation systems by being agile, innovative, rapidly deploying new solutions, and maximizing the impact of our resources.”

As an agile agency, TSA must efficiently and rapidly apply innovative processes and technology to outmatch complex and evolving threats to the nation’s transportation systems.

“Listening to the work we do with our tech partners and seeing the teams at these airports was so energizing. Looking forward to accomplishing more in the years to come!” said Administrator Pekoske via Twitter/X.

For much of the trip, the Administrator was accompanied by a who’s who of TSA leaders – Chief Innovation Officer Steven Parker; Deputy Chief Innovation Officer Andy Haskins; Enterprise Support Deputy Executive Assistant Administrator Kim Hutchinson; Chief Information Officer Yemi Oshinnaiye; Counselor to the Administrator Faiza Khan; Requirements, Capabilities and Analysis (RCA) Senior Technical Advisor Charlie Hall; RCA Identity Management Manager Jason Lim and RCA Innovation Task Force Acting Director Anca Alexandrescu.

The team embarked on a series of visits with commercial and federal partners to discuss new technologies and how innovation, creativity and agility impact mission success.  

The team visited Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Apple, Google, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), In-Q-Tel (IQT) and met with Stanford University Professor Dr. Hayagreeva “Huggy” Rao, an expert in innovation and organizational behavior. Pekoske also engaged with TSA employees at California’s Monterey Regional Airport (MRY), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), and San José Mineta International Airport (SJU).

Center for Homeland Security Defense and Security

Pekoske participated in a fireside chat on building a culture of innovation at the Center for Homeland Security Defense and Security – Alumni Professional Exchange event at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. LE/FAMS Executive Director Serge Potopov moderated the event.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Pekoske visited the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federally-funded science and technology research and development center in Livermore, California, to discuss the lab’s capabilities and potential areas for collaboration.

Google, Apple

The Administrator engaged with Google and Apple executives to address states adopting the use of state-issued digital IDs and their acceptance at the security checkpoint during the identity verification process. TSA is working with the tech giants so passengers can identify themselves with IDs stored on their phones at airports.              

Defense Innovation Unit

Then it was off to Mountain View, California, where Pekoske met with DIU Director Doug Beck and Deputy Director Kirstin Riesbeck. The meeting focused on DIU’s capabilities for fielding and scaling commercial technology as well as areas for potential collaboration with TSA.

DIU is the only Department of Defense (DoD) organization focused exclusively on sourcing and evaluating emerging technologies that address critical gaps and scaling commercial solutions to deliver strategic impact at speed across the U.S. military. The Administrator added his signature to the DIU Innovation Wall, which also features the signatures of defense secretaries Ash Carter, Jim Mattis and Lloyd Austin.

“DIU is excited to share lessons learned, successes and opportunities accelerating commercial technology into DoD with our partners across the U.S. government,” said Beck. “Together, we can deliver strategic impact for the nation.”


The Administrator adds his name to the DIU Innovation Board. (Photo by Steven Parker)
The Administrator adds his name to the DIU Innovation Board. (Photo by Steven Parker)

The Administrator then met with IQT leadership at their Menlo Park, California, office to discuss the company’s capability to pilot and adopt commercial solutions in support of TSA’s mission. IQT, a strategic global investor, partners with non-traditional and emerging investment-backed companies to adapt cutting edge commercial technology for the U.S. government.

“We were glad to spend time with TSA and a number of IQT’s portfolio companies and others in Silicon Valley, identifying opportunities for TSA and other government agencies to leverage innovation from the venture capital and startup communities,” said IQT CEO Steve Bowsher. “We look forward to supporting TSA’s work and enhancing their connections to the private sector.”

Pekoske affirmed TSA’s commitment to engage with IQT for rapid access to advanced capabilities and accelerated adoption in support of TSA’s critical mission needs.

DIU and IQT represent two key pathways to meeting the challenge of government agencies adopting commercial technologies at the rate of the private sector and breaking down systemic barriers along the way to inform repeatable processes.

Stanford University Graduate School of Business

At Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, the Administrator met with Dr. Hayagreeva “Huggy” Rao, co-director of the Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program and professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources.

Rao discussed leading organizational change, building customer-focused cultures, organization design and empowering the workforce. He emphasized the importance of shaping organizational culture by applying a people-first approach, something Pekoske has long embraced as shown by his strong commitment to TSA employees.

TSA Ventures

Following the visits with DIU, IQT and Stanford, the Administrator participated in a TSA Ventures strategy discussion led by the Chief Innovation Officer and facilitated by BMNT, a global advisory firm for government and federal partners. TSA Ventures is one of the lines of effort described in the TSA Innovation Doctrine and seeks to complement the agency’s more traditional acquisition path by accelerating dual use commercial technologies to quickly get state-of-the-art solutions in the hands of TSOs.

TSA Lift Cells

Finally, Pekoske engaged with TSA’s Bay Area Lift Cells from SFO, OAK and SJU, who gathered to build relationships and work collectively on problem statements to bring to the TSA 2024 Lift Summit at TSA headquarters. “Lift Cells” are TSA groups that help the agency solve problems while building on the agency’s culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Pekoske applauded the Lift Cells for their work in helping the agency explore solutions to the everyday challenges employees face. “The first three words of our vision statement say, ‘an agile security agency’ and we can’t be agile if we’re not taking the input from the people we have on the frontlines of the organization… you obviously see things that might be done more effectively, more efficiently, better for customers. We need to know those things and try to get those out. If we didn’t have [your input] we wouldn’t be the agile agency we need to be,” said Pekoske.

The trip highlighted TSA’s commitment to maintaining a vision for a secure future through investments, partnerships, innovation, and research and development.

Parker summed up what the Silicon Valley tour accomplished for TSA. “An important objective of this trip was to further TSA’s adoption of a ‘fast follower’ strategy to harness commercial technologies,” he said. “We are going to continue to collaborate with our innovation partners and tap into their capabilities and experience working with the private sector.”

For more information on TSA’s enterprise innovation efforts, please visit the new Chief Innovation Officer website.

From TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs