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Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration

TSA on the Job: Innovation Task Force Manager

Monday, July 10, 2017
Mara Winn

As a branch manager with TSA’s Innovation Task Force, I work with a great team to identify security challenges at an airport or transportation hub. We take our findings to our industry partners and ask what they can create to address these challenges. We then work closely with them to test, refine, analyze, and eventually deploy new technologies.

These innovations improve the passenger experience, but more importantly, also enhance our security efforts. For example, there are more than 65 automated screening lanes currently deployed at five airports across the nation. The lanes feature multiple divesting stations for a better travel experience, and automated bin return and bag diversion features that allow our officers to concentrate strictly on security – it’s a “win” for everyone.

In developing new technologies, the passenger is always kept in mind. Travelers are from all walks of life, with different needs, shapes and sizes. Getting our technologies from our state-of-the art testing facility into our airports for demonstrations is critical in helping us collect real-world data on how passengers interact with the technology.

These demonstrations also help us identify efficiencies. A great example of this is the Biometric Authentication Technology pilot. Biometric authentication technology reads a passenger’s fingerprints as a way to authenticate their identity and also serves as their boarding pass. In our findings we realized that one of the systems works better when sunlight isn’t shining on it. This seemingly little piece of data can go a long way in improving this system and hopefully be deployed to airports in the near future.

In addition, we are also working on bringing Computed Tomography to the checkpoint. This technology has been used in checked baggage screening for years, where the large size and loud noise of the machines do not impact the traveler. The challenge lies in bringing the same 3D security capability to the checkpoint in a smaller and quieter system. We are currently testing these units in Phoenix and soon, in Boston, and are working with our partners to integrate CT and other technologies into our airports.

Next time you fly, you might see us testing new technology at the airport, and I hope that you will participate to help us towards creating new solutions in aviation security. I take pride in helping ensure our nation’s airports have the most efficient and effective technologies so that every day Americans can get to their destination with peace of mind.

Mara Winn

Innovation Task Force Branch Manager

Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis

Comments

Submitted by RB on

"As a branch manager with TSA’s Innovation Task Force, I work with a great team to identify security challenges at an airport or transportation hub."

.........................................

Exactly how many Innovation Task Force branches are there? And why is this even needed?

The public tells TSA where the failures are occurring and for the most part it is TSA employees who are directly causing the failures. That leads back to the lack of leadership and management by TSA and unprofessional TSA employees who abuse travelers day in and day out. When the public can't even get a simple question answered by TSA demonstrates the complete disconnect of TSA from reality.

Submitted by Weekly Travel Guy on

Not sure why, but my OPT out of Pre-Check since I signed up and paid and was provided a Travel # has been at least 50% of the time. Yes my Govt ID, Ticket, Record Names with Middle Name and Pre-Chk # all match and are on file with my airlines, etc etc etc. I've spoken to the airlines, everything is there and on each ticket I have in the file. I was better off with at least 80% of the time getting Pre-Check before I paid the $80 -- any thought?

Submitted by US on

One of the biggest security challenges at airports is the presence of a large, poorly trained security agency that uses slow, invasive technology with a false positive rate of 100% and conducts "pat-downs" of innocent passengers that amount to sexual assault. What is your office doing, ma'am, to get this agency out of our pants and out of our airports?

Submitted by RB on

"there are more than 65 automated screening lanes currently deployed at five airports across the nation"
...................................

Big deal. What are there, 425 or so airports and no telling how many screening lanes. 5 out of 425, hardly a remarkable achievement.

Machines are not TSA's problem. It's people! Dishonest, uncaring, unprofessional people dressed up in fake cop uniforms.

I see a job ripe for RIF!

Submitted by Max Yost on

I concur with the last poster. Frankly, I don't give a gnat's eyelash that you are studying an automated bin checkpoint that European airports have had in place for nearly ten years. I dare you to go out on the checkpoint and grope the vagina of a fellow female American citizen. Perhaps only then will you even begin to comprehend the absolute contempt we have for you personally and for the agency for which you work.

Submitted by CMB on

Once again, I do not understand anyone's issues with TSA at airports. I travel extensively, and I get to observe ignorant passengers - doesn't matter what line they're in - acting like overindulged snowflakes who feel self-important... When one loses that stupid attitude, one will find very kind agents, many with great senses of humor. And yes, I'm talking about small and large airports. TSA has its own kinks, but they can work through those. Focus on the VA system, people. Now THAT's something to scream about!

Submitted by S Richart on

"In addition, we are also working on bringing Computed Tomography to the checkpoint. This technology has been used in checked baggage screening for years, where the large size and loud noise of the machines do not impact the traveler."

If this method of screening is so great and these machines can detect explosives, why are so many bags opened and rifled through with screeners leaving possessions in disarray, items missing and the tops off liquids that then leak all over the clothing, etc. in the bag? AskTSA claims: "Our "officers" are trained to return your property to its original state after an inspection." That statement is obviated by the number of complaints on @AskTSA and @TSA about the condition baggage is in when the passenger picks it up after a flight. It certainly doesn't seem that anyone is trained to treat either passengers or baggage properly.

Here's an innovation for you: Require every baggage screener to sign and date stamp the notice of inspection left in luggage that has been opened. That alone has the potential to cut down on damage done to the contents of luggage.

Why are so many people sexually assaulted at checkpoints? How many "dangerous items" has TSA EVER found during the course of a sexual assault.

Why does the cowardly TSA refuse to use the word "genitals" when describing a full body search, using instead the term "groin area" or "sensitive area"?

Is it the case that the TSA is staffed with a bunch of malcontents who delight in abusing passengers and their possessions?

screen shot/DHS IG statement

Submitted by QT on

"Once again, I do not understand anyone's issues with TSA at airports."

TSA uses invasive and ineffective screening technology with a false positive rate of 100%; TSA subjects many passengers to physical searches that are no different from sexual assault; TSA has spent over a decade enforcing a scientifically indefensible liquid restriction and pointless shoe removal policies, among other things.

Which of these things, tell me, are you OK with?

Submitted by RB on

Submitted by Weekly Travel Guy on Wed, 2017-07-12 09:30
Not sure why, but my OPT out of Pre-Check since I signed up and paid and was provided a Travel # has been at least 50% of the time. Yes my Govt ID, Ticket, Record Names with Middle Name and Pre-Chk # all match and are on file with my airlines, etc etc etc. I've spoken to the airlines, everything is there and on each ticket I have in the file. I was better off with at least 80% of the time getting Pre-Check before I paid the $80 -- any thought?

...................
What you describe is not an Opt Out. What you're experiencing is Bait and Switch. A good old fashion swindle brought to you by the crooked TSA.

Submitted by Steve Divnick on

I wish I could reach a human being at the TSA who would answer my appeals to review the ban against carry-on golf clubs. Since this is a moderated blog, maybe the person reviewing it will help me get it in front of the right person.

My company has been manufacturing a telescopic golf club designed for travel since 1992. It fits inside a carry-on bag, telescopes out to a solid full length club, and has a transmission inside the head so it can be adjusted to replicate every loft in a full set. Our customers used to be able to carry it on. But not since 9-11. Why? No golf club has ever been used as a weapon on a flight anywhere in the world. No terrorist would ever do so. It would be too easy to overcome. So why ban them? All this restriction does is allow terrorism to restrict our freedom...to restrict commerce. That is terrorism's goal. We shouldn’t give in to that unless there is real danger posed by the banned item.

I'm sure the airlines would prefer not allowing full-length clubs on flights. But that is from a "fit" perspective. Our proposal is to allow golf clubs, "If they fit inside an allowed carry-on." A simple rule change like that would solve this issue.

Yet another point of logic is that canes and walking sticks are allowed…even non-telescopic versions. So the argument that a golf club can be used as a weapon isn’t consistent with allowing canes which are pretty much the same thing.

I have been submitting this request on a regular basis for years using the TSA website "Contact" link. But all I ever get back is the standard form answer that says golf clubs are not allowed. I know that. That is my point. I am appealing that restriction. I want someone to acknowledge my request and bring it to the committee for a reasonable discussion.

Please, on behalf of thousands of travelers who would like to be able to take the club with them that they specifically purchased for jet travel, pass this on to someone who will give it a serious review.

Thank you.

Steve Divnick
www.DivnickGolf.com

Submitted by RB on

Submitted by Steve Divnick on Sat, 2017-07-22 17:30
I wish I could reach a human being at the TSA who would answer my appeals to review the ban against carry-on golf clubs. Since this is a moderated blog, maybe the person reviewing it will help me get it in front of the right person.

My company has been manufacturing a telescopic golf club designed for travel since 1992. It fits inside a carry-on bag, telescopes out to a solid full length club, and has a transmission inside the head so it can be adjusted to replicate every loft in a full set. Our customers used to be able to carry it on. But not since 9-11. Why? No golf club has ever been used as a weapon on a flight anywhere in the world. No terrorist would ever do so. It would be too easy to overcome. So why ban them? All this restriction does is allow terrorism to restrict our freedom...to restrict commerce. That is terrorism's goal. We shouldn’t give in to that unless there is real danger posed by the banned item.

I'm sure the airlines would prefer not allowing full-length clubs on flights. But that is from a "fit" perspective. Our proposal is to allow golf clubs, "If they fit inside an allowed carry-on." A simple rule change like that would solve this issue.

Yet another point of logic is that canes and walking sticks are allowed…even non-telescopic versions. So the argument that a golf club can be used as a weapon isn’t consistent with allowing canes which are pretty much the same thing.

I have been submitting this request on a regular basis for years using the TSA website "Contact" link. But all I ever get back is the standard form answer that says golf clubs are not allowed. I know that. That is my point. I am appealing that restriction. I want someone to acknowledge my request and bring it to the committee for a reasonable discussion.

Please, on behalf of thousands of travelers who would like to be able to take the club with them that they specifically purchased for jet travel, pass this on to someone who will give it a serious review.

Thank you.

Steve Divnick
www.DivnickGolf.com

Water has never been used as a weapon against commercial aviation but that doesn't stop TSA. Facts and commonsense aren't high marks at TSA.

Good luck on the golf club but don't hold your breath, TSA has its collective head right up the keister.

Submitted by Mother Of Handi... on

We just flew out of Phoenix Sky Harbor airport and they seriously need trained on dealing with handicapped children. My daughter has gone through several checkpoints across the nation and many times at BWI our home airport with no issues. The Phoenix TSA was so rough and nasty with my daughter who is nonverbal and autistic that they had her hysterical and me crying. Two minutes of patience would have expedited what ended up to be a 15 minute ordeal. They kept screaming at her not to touch the walls of the walk through scanner and she didn't understand what they were saying. I kept trying to tell them she couldn't understand and to let me help her and they kept screaming at her. She is 11 with mental capabilities of a 3 year old. All she wanted was her iPad back that she was watching Elmo on that was put through the scanner. It could have been handled so much better than throwing a mentally handicapped child into a meltdown. Overall Phoenix Sky Harbor was one of the rudest airports I have ever been in. Everyone there seemed to have an attitude problem.

Submitted by Chip In Florida on

"... A great example of this is the Biometric Authentication Technology pilot. "

Why is identity important to security? If a passenger doesn't have any prohibited items in their bags or on their person why would it matter who they are? I mean as far as the TSA is concerned? Why do you care who I am as long as I don't have any WEI with me?

Submitted by Andrea Wilkison on

Have you ever thought about how much time it would save in security lines if you had passengers hand in their carry-on luggage to be scanned just like they would if they had checked bags? They could drop off their the luggage at the ticketing counter, and it could meet back up with them after they've gone through the TSA security. This would save your employees from the time consuming task of looking at every single carry-on that comes through.

Submitted by Not TSAgent Wes... on

Andrea, you do realize, don't you, than many times people are carrying their baggage on because there is something of value contained within. Something that may mysteriously "go missing" where the TSAs cameras are not pointing, also mysteriously, after handing said baggage over for scanning out of eyesight of the passenger. No thanks. I'm sure the TSA also wouldn't want any additional fingers pointed at them should this hypothetical mystery occur as well. They have enough fingers pointing at them when actual mysterious disappearances occur.