Remarks at the American Association of Airport Executives

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Annual Conference and Exposition
Deputy Administrator Gale Rossides
New Orleans, LA
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you for this opportunity to appear today to discuss the future of transportation security. Thank you to our friends from AAAE for their partnership and to Chip Barclay for that kind introduction. Chip has been the best kind of partner – always supportive.

I would also like to offer my congratulations to today's AAAE Distinguished Service Award winner. This is an outstanding accomplishment. We look forward to sharing the benefits of your future contributions to AAAE and to the aviation community.

It's an honor for me to be here today.

TSA in Action

I'd like to begin with a story.

Sixty days ago at exactly this hour—noon—passenger Kevin Brown walked into the Orlando Airport, carrying a backpack and acting in a highly irregular manner. He paced back and forth, and several times he approached the ticket counter but then withdrew. A TSA manager, in plainclothes, watched this suspicious behavior for only a few seconds before calling for backup.

Two uniformed Behavior Detection Officers, or BDOs as we call them, watched Brown from their positions in the ticketing area, well in front the security checkpoint, until he checked his luggage with the airline. Then, they moved in and intercepted and searched his bags.

What did they find? Everything you need to build a pipe bomb (or, in other words an Improvised Explosive Device): Two galvanized pipes. - End caps with holes drilled in them. - BBs. - A model-rocket igniter. - Batteries. - Lighter fluid. - Two vodka bottles with flammable nitromethane. - Instructions on making explosives. TSA's Bomb Appraisal Officer investigated the contents of the bag, and his analysis is that if Brown had known how, he could have built a bomb from those items in a matter of seconds.

You probably saw what happened next on T.V. or read about it in the newspapers. Brown didn't make it to the checkpoint and his bags never left the lobby. He was intercepted and taken into custody by the Orlando police, searched at curbside by the Orange County bomb squad and turned over to the FBI.

I cannot overemphasize the benefit of identifying people with hostile intent before they approach the checkpoint and endanger passengers. Inside the airport, the impact was kept to a minimum, without closing even a single checkpoint. Passengers hate to wait, it's true, but many said they were just happy Brown was spotted and stopped before he got on a plane and endangered them.

People, Process and Technology—Checkpoint Evolution

This is layered security in action. It is an excellent example of TSA's partnership with local law enforcement, airport security, and as a matter of fact, with all of you in this room. It is part of our new paradigm to recognize and use the skill of our workforce, to add layers of security, and to go on offense. How do we go on offense? There are three prongs to our approach to upgrade security: people, process and technology.

We call this approach Checkpoint Evolution—because we do not have a game-changing technology or magic silver bullet that will, at once, solve our security issues. Only by upgrading what we do have—our significant people and technology resources, including the resources we have in our partnerships with all of you here today—coupled with intensive process innovation, we will get the security result we need and produce less hassle for passengers.

It used to be that government was the last resort for innovation. Checkpoint Evolution is designed to enable TSA to partner with you and keep pace as a leader in innovation.

To that end, we recently announced the first major, widespread technology upgrade in thirty years. A full prototype checkpoint is now being tested, thanks to the tremendous leadership and support from the airport and the airlines involved. It is in place in Terminal B at Baltimore's BWI airport. You will see components of this checkpoint improvement at additional airports before the end of the summer travel season, as well.

You will see an integrated checkpoint bringing together people, technology, and better process. At first, you will notice a new look, but the most significant piece involves our Officers. The configuration and technology at this new checkpoint supports a team approach that is calmer and more conducive to smart security.

We are very much looking forward to working with all of you to push this concept further. An essential component of Checkpoint Evolution is your partnership and engagement. Together we can take TSA security to new levels.


Checkpoint Evolution starts with our people—they are TSA's biggest investment.

This year, every Transportation Security Officer working at a checkpoint will undergo an extensive twelve-hour re-training, bringing together the latest thinking from intelligence, from explosives detection, and in human factors that can affect security. This will give us the tools we need to make security smarter and harder to beat.

We know that terrorists adapt. The threat has shifted…and our security resources and attention have changed, too—to the emerging threat of Improvised Explosives Devices. Our efforts are focused on what will actually take down a plane and we work backward from there to eliminate vulnerabilities.

We know that terrorists' newest technique is to employ everyday items. You can see the evidence of this in the recent UK trial of the liquid explosives plot to take down transatlantic airplanes. Even though an ordinary water bottle may look like a very small container, you can pack a lot of potential for harm inside it. Not to mention what can be hidden inside a shoe. In recent months, our frontline Transportation Security Officers have discovered wires, electronic components, even toggle switches artfully hidden in the lining and soles of footwear.

Our workforce has six years on-the-job training against terrorists and is the best in the world at what they do. Our investment in them and in system improvements must continue to stay ahead of those who would do us harm.

In addition, we are using our workforce to add security layers to focus on those with intent to do harm. I mentioned earlier the Behavior Detection and Bomb Appraisal Officers, and now we have Travel Document Checkers at the front of every checkpoint line. We can see the results of this investment already. Since July 2007, Travel Document Checker referrals have resulted in more than 200 arrests for suspect or fraudulent travel documents, outstanding warrants, and illegal alien status.

And it is certainly plausible that there is the potential for forged or counterfeit travel documents used by would-be terrorists. By taking over this function at all of our nation's airports, TSA has substantially complicated this component of terrorist planning, adding another layer of security to the screening process.


Checkpoint Evolution means innovations in checkpoint process as well. Our "Black Diamond" self-select lanes are designated by signage (modeled after the familiar ski icons) that directs passengers to the appropriate lane based on their travel needs and knowledge. Green is the queue for families or beginners, blue is for casual travelers, and black diamond is reserved for expert travelers who know the TSA rules and arrive at the checkpoint ready to go through efficiently.

These dedicated lanes give passengers some measure of control over their own experience and also provide a better, less stressful environment for us to do our job. And we're getting better security results: In cities with self-select lanes, we are seeing considerably lower alarm rates in the family lane because there is more time to prepare and remove prohibited items.

The program is so successful that 21 airports have moved forward and are seeing benefits in just the few months that Diamond Select has been tried. Any one of you interested in having this program at your airport, please let us know.


On the technology front of Checkpoint Evolution, we will be upgrading the technology you see at passenger checkpoints.

This year we are deploying multi-view Advanced X-ray machines for carry-on baggage. AT is a catch phrase for a group of advanced X-ray technologies that provide clear, high-definition X-ray images that improve TSA security officers' ability to detect potential threat items. As new threats emerge—and as new detection technology becomes available—enhancements to the equipment will generally mean only a software upgrade. Six hundred of these new AT X-ray machines will be deployed this year.

For quick, less-intrusive, highly effective screening of what's carried on the person, Whole Body Imaging will be deployed. In fact, it is currently being tested at New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Baltimore (BWI) and Phoenix, where we are operating Millimeter Wave technology. It will soon be in use at Miami, Washington (DCA), Dallas, Detroit, and Las Vegas.

TSA considers Millimeter Wave technology in "pilot mode" with a limited number of purchases, because we are still doing data collection. We are looking at operational suitability, staffing, and passenger flow to optimize use of the technology. Basically, we're testing it out. This deployment will help determine how we can apply the product more broadly.

To put all these changes in perspective, by the end of 2008, the vast majority of passengers will be covered by Behavior Detection Officers; 100 percent of passengers will be covered by TSA Travel Document Checkers; and over half the flying public by AT X-ray.

Better security. Better results.

Calm is Better

I would like to be clear about one thing. Our shared mission is security. The main point of the checkpoint evolution is not the lights and music, nor the tangible effects that you can see—It is to improve security by calming the environment. All these things add together to a sum bigger than the parts: self-select lanes that speed the process; wireless whisper headsets to allow Security Officers to communicate discretely; new training protocols in how to engage passengers—all of this lowers the noise and reduces the "friction" so contrasts stand out.

Going back to the story I used to start this speech, that kind of contrast is how our Behavior Detection Officers spotted Kevin Brown when he was less than a hundred feet inside the Orlando airport lobby with everything he needed to make a pipe bomb.

These initiatives work together as connected pieces in a multi-layered total security system in which you play an indispensable part. TSA's strategy is to start with intelligence, partner with law enforcement, airport and industry partners, and the public, and use security measures that are flexible, widely deployable, mobile, and layered to cover the inevitable gaps that exist or develop in our complex, open transportation network.

One of the most important layers of security—yet invisible and unsung—are the Federal Air Marshals. These highly trained men and women spend countless hours on domestic and international flights. We rely on their superior training and tireless dedication and commitment to protect the flying public from harm.

In terms of our partners in security, the Federal Flight Deck Officers are the perfect example of a coordinated partnership with the aviation industry at a very real-world, practical level. Flight Deck Officers are Federal Law Enforcement Officers for defense of the cockpit. Their presence is invaluable to not only TSA but the nation as a whole. I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal and heartfelt thanks to them.

TSA is fortunate that the Federal Flight Deck Officer program offers us this all-volunteer workforce numbering in the thousands who have signed up to take action on behalf of the American people. They are aligned within the law enforcement community at TSA under the responsibility of the Federal Air Marshal Service. The program continues to grow: we have new classes weekly at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in New Mexico, and we opened a special training facility for re-certification in Dallas, TX, that is convenient for many of these volunteers. TSA is grateful for the support of our nation's commercial pilot corps. We are continuously working to capitalize on that resource in the cockpit in a security crisis.

Transportation Security Officers, Federal Air Marshals, Flight Deck Officers, and the full community at TSA are focused not only on what we already know, but also on being alert for clues of something new, different, and dangerous. That is our challenge, to execute against known threats but also to have the wisdom and imagination to put measures in place now that will prepare us for the future.

TSA Transition

Preparing for TSA's future is my constant operational challenge. As you know, TSA and the Department of Homeland Security are getting ready for the administration change in 2009. This will mark the first time since Sept. 11, 2001 that the control of government will change hands. And it is my job on January 20th, and the job of the Senior Leadership Team of TSA, to make sure we don't drop the ball.

I assure you we will not.

TSA will screen 2 million passengers the day before January 20th and 2 million passengers the day after. Security operations don't change during transitions to new administrations.

In this transition, we are engaged in something truly historic. Secretary Chertoff has asked that we turn over a fully functioning homeland security operation to the next administration—fully functioning on Day One.

Our major objectives for the transition are to, first, have the right career people in place when the political leadership changes hands to ensure that day-to-day operations are not impacted; second, to continue our major programs and our critical processes and allow them to mature; and third, to execute our mission and respond to every threat and any emergency during the transition.

We are prepared. We are constantly learning and continuing to learn. The effort is unique, but on the other hand, it's business as usual. The daily operations will continue seamlessly through the transition. I helped stand up TSA, and so did 67 percent of our Transportation Security Officer workforce who are still on the job today—despite what you read in the papers about attrition rates. Even if a transition is new territory for TSA and DHS, it is not for the thousands of career civil servants who are in key management positions throughout TSA. This team is going to be at the helm in January 2009 in the same way they are today.

At TSA we are prepared because several years ago we looked ahead and we began planning and executing for the transition and, more important, for the future of TSA.

We established a Senior Leadership Team that began operating as a cohesive team to lead TSA, enabling us to have well-integrated and coordinated strategies, plans, and program operations. The team gets together weekly to ensure high-level awareness, communication, and decision-making.

We are actively nurturing the next generation of leaders to move TSA forward. We designed and implemented leadership development programs to build a diverse, experienced, and well-prepared core of senior and middle managers. We have the bench strength in place.

We have also worked to strengthen core functions and develop process discipline so that even during a period of change we will continue moving forward. The whole organization will be ready and operating at peak performance during the transition.

We are ready.


I would like to share a perspective on management that I heard from Herb Kelleher (from Southwest Airlines). He tells this story when he speaks to business school graduates.

He says to the students, Imagine you are the CEO of a start-up company. The tasks you are given are:
You have to hire 60,000 people in less than a year. You have to achieve 33 different goals. You have to scrape by for the money. You have no budget. You have to be operational right away. You have to work under government scrutiny and with bureaucratic rules. You will have the eyes of America on you every minute of the day… And critics will be analyzing your every move. You are paid less than anybody else doing this kind of work and you work 24 x 7.

How many of you would sign up to do that job?

No one ever raises their hand. Then Herb tells them, That's TSA.

That is our story. We've been hard to love, but you have been there for us since day one. TSA would not exist, let alone be successful without your full partnership and our joint commitment to protect air travel. On behalf of all of us at TSA, thank you for your tremendous support.

We know that, for TSA's ongoing success, the essential requirement is partnership with you. You are as much a part of our Checkpoint Evolution as our other initiatives. In concrete ways your contributions mean our success.

We invite you to see us as a full partner at the airport. We ask you to build relationships with our Federal Security Directors.

Utilize that connection into TSA as a real, live relationship, with people like Doug Hofsass, TSA's General Manager for Airports; Michal Morgan, who coordinates General Aviation; and Mike Golden, our Chief Technology Officer.

Furthermore, we ask you to come out in support of what we do and our new initiatives. The value to us of your engagement and participation cannot be exaggerated. At the end of the day, just as you have been since the start of the day, we are all in this together.

Transition is about the strength and maturity of our partnerships. It's about truly shared goals. There may be many different routes to how goals are accomplished, but it's a shared end result: economic vitality and safety. It's a journey. You could even say it's an evolution.


I'd like to conclude with another brief story. This one took place not sixty days ago but six years ago: on September 11th, 2001.

I was on Cape Cod with my family. We were walking on the beach near Otis [Air National Guard Base], near where they launch the fighter jets. We saw the jets fly overhead, heading for the World Trade Center. But they didn't get there in time. My husband called to me, "Come inside, I think we're under attack!"

At the time, I was working for the government at ATF [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] and we couldn't get back to Washington. When [U.S. Secretary of Transportation] Norman Mineta resumed air travel, we took one of the first flights out, from Providence, Rhode Island to Dulles [Washington International] Airport. There were only a handful of commercial passengers, but the plane was full with United Airlines pilots and flight attendants, on their way back to work, not knowing what to expect, answering the call of duty. We were flying alongside the plume of smoke, all along the Northeast coast. The plane was dead silent.

When we got to Dulles, it was a ghost town. It was haunting—Dulles was so empty. As we walked along the silent terminal, one of the pilots said, "You know, we will survive this."

We have done better than survive.

Do not underestimate the value we have in our work together. And do not falter in strengthening the partnerships we share. It is your strength as partner that will be a critical factor to TSA continuing in this direction, in this level of engagement, in this evolution.

I appreciate your hard work and dedication as partners in this mission to secure our nation.

Thank you.