Remarks at the GBTA Conference

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Administrator John S. Pistole
Denver, CO
Sunday, August 21, 2011
As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon. Thanks Mike, I appreciate that kind introduction. I’m grateful to share some thoughts with you on the state of transportation security – noting that as GBTA members, you comprise the world’s largest network of business travel professionals so it’s an honor to be here.

Three weeks from today, the world will pause to observe the 10th Anniversary of the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, and to honor the memory of nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children killed that day.

It’s also been close to 10 years since the TSA was created in November 2001. Throughout this decade, TSA’s mission has been to protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. Every day, we work to do whatever we can to prevent such an attack, or other catastrophic attacks, from happening again.

While a significant amount of our time, energy and resources is devoted to aviation security, our responsibility is to safeguard all modes of transportation – and, as many of you know, there is a broad range of ongoing TSA initiatives designed to do so, most with state and local partners and of course with you in the private sector.

Today, I want to share with you some of the progress we’ve made in our first 10 years as well as discuss a few ways that TSA will build on these achievements to further enhance security while also seeking to improve the travel experience whenever possible.
Since 9/11 and our stand up, both the Department of Homeland Security and TSA have taken significant steps to keep Americans safe and our transportation network is more secure today than it was a decade ago.

These steps include establishing and enhancing our layered approach to transportation security by continuously deploying new technology, evolving our processes, and applying intelligence analysis to our security measures in real time.

I want to briefly review some key milestones we’ve recently reached in meeting some of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, all of which make traveling safer for you and your loved ones.

As of last November , thanks to the success of our Secure Flight program, individual passenger information for 100 percent of domestic and international airlines with flights into, out of and within the United States is being checked against government watch lists – fulfilling a key 9/11 Commission recommendation ahead of schedule.

TSA also screens 100 percent of checked and carry-on baggage for explosives and other dangerous items. In-line baggage screening systems streamline the checked baggage screening process, maximizing baggage throughput and reducing the number of physical injuries sustained by security officers as a result of lifting heavy bags.

Now, going back to my earlier comment regarding TSA’s layered approach to strengthening security, we know that each of these individual initiatives are capable of preventing a terrorist attack. Together, TSA’s more than 20 layers of security combine to keep the traveling public even safer, especially in light of what the defense, intelligence and law enforcement communities do to inform and support these efforts. Multiple layers of security provide multiple opportunities for our officers and agents to detect and ultimately deter terrorists. Many of these layers simply didn’t exist ten years ago.

But what do the next ten years hold for transportation security and the future of travel? Because of your work, it’s likely many of you have heard the phrase “risk-based security” in the last few months.

At TSA, when we say risk-based security, we’re not talking about a specific program per se, or a limited initiative.

On the contrary, risk-based security encompasses a full suite of enhancements, some of which we have recently begun, and others that we will soon be testing at select airports around the country, redefining how aviation security works in the U.S.

As a result of the significant enhancements in security over the past decade, TSA is able to better refine our approach, moving further away from a one-size-fits-all construct through a better use of intelligence to inform the screening process.
Over the past few months we’ve begun, or are about to begin, proving out several concepts that represent the next steps of our transformation into a more risk-based, intelligence-driven organization. And as with all of the concepts we’re evaluation, the driving force behind these efforts is looking at how we can continue enhancing transportation security.

One of these ideas is well known, at least in name, and that’s a trusted traveler program that evaluates how to expedite the screening process for travelers we know and trust the most, and travelers who are willing to voluntarily share more information with us before they travel. Doing so will then allow our officers to more effectively prioritize screening and focus our resources on those passengers we know the least about and those of course on watch lists.

We will begin testing this known or trusted traveler concept in the fall, and to make it happen we are partnering with U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as U.S. air carriers and airports. The bottom line goal is to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way possible.

Of course, nothing will ever guarantee expedited screening. Passengers will always be subject to random, unpredictable measures. To prevent terrorists from gaming the system, we must continue to maintain these aspects of our security screening processes.

TSA is also working with airlines, especially ATA and pilot’s unions, on identity-based screening of pilots.
Additionally, we are currently testing how we screen children, using risk-based, intelligence-driven strategies. Both are components of TSA’s move toward a more risk-based, intelligence-driven approach.

In many of our initiatives, interaction with travelers plays a key role in our ability to successfully implement risk-based security protocols. One such effort is currently being tested at Boston’s Logan Airport, and it involves an expansion of a program we call SPOT, which stands for Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques. This expanded behavior detection initiative strengthens the capability to identify people exhibiting signs that may indicate they are a potential threat.

We also continue pursuing the latest technology to keep us ahead of evolving threats. For example, we are now deploying a software upgrade to our AIT (advanced imaging technology) machines that maintain a high level of security while further strengthening privacy protections.

We anticipate that this new software will increase throughput, reduce the number of officers required to staff imaging technology units, and eliminate the remote viewing rooms previously used to view images produced by the technology.

In the next 10 years, TSA will continue to enhance security and our counterterrorism focus while also improving screening for passengers whenever possible.

In conclusion, I am confident that testing and implementing initiatives such as trusted traveler holds great potential to strengthen aviation security while significantly enhancing the overall travel experience. And we look forward to working with you to accomplish this paradigm shift.

Thanks again for inviting me to join you, and I look forward to hearing your ideas and working with you to further our joint efforts to promote the free movement of people and goods with world class security.

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