One year ago today I was given the honor of joining and leading the men and women of the Transportation Security Administration. I continue to be inspired by their skill and dedication every day.
My first year at TSA has been a busy one – in fact – by the numbers it has been the busiest in TSA history. We have had extremely busy spring and summer travel periods and this year we are on track to screen over 800 million passengers and crew, plus all of their checked and carry-on bags. That’s compared to the 771 million passengers and crew screened last year.
But we’re not just working harder, we are working smarter and more strategically. In the spring we released the TSA strategy, which we designed to guide us from now until TSA’s 25th anniversary in 2026. The TSA strategy is based on a concept that sounds simple: For TSA to continue to succeed in our shared security mission we cannot afford to focus only on addressing the threat where it is today, we must also focus on our capabilities for the future.
The strategy outlines three main strategic priorities that we are pursuing daily.
We are improving security and safeguarding the transportation system…
…And raising the baseline of global aviation security. In partnership with airports, airlines, and international partners, we have implemented enhanced security measures for both domestic and international flights that improve and increase security worldwide.
Today also marks the day in 2006 when the United States and United Kingdom foiled a plot to blow up U.S. bound commercial airliners using liquid explosives hidden in carry-on bags. This plot was the genesis of TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule that limits the amount liquids, aerosols and gels allowed in carry-on baggage. TSA’s response to this threat illustrates just how fast, agile, and collaborative we can be in the face of an imminent threat.
Then and now our security efforts remain focused on staying ahead of those trying to do us harm and ensuring travelers get to their destination safely.
In addition to our core aviation passenger screening mission, we continue to oversee the security of the surface transportation system, where threats to soft targets and public areas persist and evolve. Every day, we collaborate closely with our industry partners to assess vulnerabilities and analyze security programs across the surface sector, from pipelines, to mass transit to over-the-road bus entities.
We are accelerating action…
…And we are leading security innovation. The threat to aviation is constantly evolving, so we’ve been focused on developing the next generation state-of-the-art technology and deploying it faster. Our Innovation Task Force, in partnership with industry, has accelerated our efforts to advance security technology.
This year we worked with our airport and airline partners to expand the use and testing of Computed Tomography X-ray machines in numerous airports and recently announced our plans to expand to more airports in 2019. Computed Tomography is great for passengers and great for security. It makes it easier for TSA officers to identify potential threats and in the future may eliminate the need for passengers to remove liquids and electronics for carry-on passenger baggage screening.
TSA has also continued to work with airport and airline partners to deploy automated screening lanes to more airports. The automated screening lanes are designed to improve the checkpoint screening process for travelers including the ability for multiple passengers to divest their belongings at the same time. To date, there are over 140 lanes at over a dozen airports, with more scheduled for deployment this year.
We have also made great strides in the deployment of biometric and identity technology to improve security and strengthen the identification process. Of these efforts, we continue to test and expand the use of credential authentication technology (CAT), which allows us to validate the security features of a passenger’s photo ID and match the information from the ID against our Secure Flight vetting system. Testing of the CAT started with 17 systems at seven airports and has expanded to 42 active systems at 13 airports.
TSA has also conducted tests of facial recognition technology at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Further testing, in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), will continue throughout the month of August at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. During this period, we will use CBP’s passenger vetting systems to match facial images of international outbound passengers to photos in DHS systems, such as photos obtained from passports or visa applications or taken at time of entry to the U.S., to verify a passenger’s identity.
We are committing to people…
This summer we announced a new comprehensive career progression plan for our frontline employees to foster career growth. I am committed to investing in our transportation security officers by giving them the tools they need to grow in their TSA careers.
I believe that an effective workforce must be properly trained, coached and evaluated, and these are key in preserving a motivated and skilled workforce dedicated to executing our mission of protecting the traveling public.
Partnership is the key
In my time at TSA I have been working to instill the belief, both inside and outside the agency, that security is our common objective. It is an objective that we can best achieve through a shared and complementary effort between government, industry, and you – the public.
Since TSA’s inception, we have lived by the motto “Not on My Watch.” This has served as a powerful call to action for TSA. But it is my hope to encourage an even stronger relationship between those outside and within TSA, by acknowledging everyone’s role in our shared security mission. So I asked you to join TSA in adopting and embracing a new creed: Not on Our Watch.
There is a persistent threat to our transportation system, and together we all have a role in protecting our homeland.
I look forward to continuing to serve you and our great nation, alongside the dedicated men and women of TSA.