Remarks at the IATA 26th AVSEC World

Administrator David P. Pekoske
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
As Delivered


Well, good morning Your Excellency, Director General de Juniac, fellow colleagues and participants. I’m honored to be asked to share my thoughts with you here today on the changing face of aviation security.

I have very much been looking forward to this conference, because it’s an opportunity to connect with the operators and stakeholders who carry out the day-to-day aviation security operations around the world.

As a premier body representing the expertise and capabilities of the global aviation industry, IATA continues to be a strong partner in our shared responsibilities to understand and effectively manage the risks associated with aviation security.

So thank you IATA, to our sponsors, and to our hosts for bringing us together this year in Abu Dhabi.

Learning the Role

In my first few months as TSA Administrator, and I've been in this position for just under three months now, I've been guided by the conviction that aviation security is at its most effective when policymakers and regulators understand, value and integrate the industry perspective within our operations.

It is in this spirit that I have placed a high priority on connecting with partners and stakeholders across the United States and around the world to learn as much as I can about each of their operations.

I had the privilege to meet many of you for the first time, face-to-face in September, at the ICAO Global Aviation Security Symposium in Montreal to begin this conversation about how we can make greater strides to strengthen our collective aviation security system. Today I would like to shift this dialogue to focus on operationalizing new proposals and new ideas.

Changing Face of Security

The goal of the summit is to examine – and to proactively shape – the face of security. Confronted by a threat that continues to evolve every day, we must continue to critically examine our approach to security.

Since 9/11, we have taken unprecedented steps to ensure the security of aviation. However, while aviation and transportation hubs remain high-valued targets for terrorists, their modes and methods of attack are much more decentralized and opportunistic than ever before.

So to address the vulnerabilities and prevent future attacks, we must adjust our posture and be more agile, more creative, and more proactive.

We must address this threat head-on by re-assessing our detection and disruption tactics.

A Proactive Approach

This year the United States established advanced security measures to do just that. And soon, building on the system that many of you may already be familiar with, we'll be putting in place additional targeted measures to address the threat to air cargo.

Beyond enhancing Air Cargo Advanced Screening, or ACAS, and other security measures, I anticipate taking a closer look at efforts to address the risks associated with passengers and accessible property, as well as insider threats.

Going forward, we plan to increase targeting of high-risk passengers and improve current airport employee vetting procedures. We're also looking to expand our current use of computed tomography, or CT, and canine resources.

But we haven't been taking these steps alone. During the rollout of the new, personal electronic devices security requirements, we held several regional industry summits in Germany, Singapore, the U.S.A., and here in the U.A.E. to foster open discussions with our industry partners.

And this spirit of open dialogue and collaboration helped ensure that these new security requirements were rapidly implemented across the globe.

I recognize that the new requirements and security measures can require tremendous effort and investment to implement on the part of our partners, so I would like to express my sincere appreciation for your cooperation.

And I pledge to continue working closely with you to implement these and other measures required to defeat the threat and raise the baseline of aviation security around the globe.

Raising the Baseline

At the ICAO Symposium in Montreal, I issued a to call to action – a call for us to come together to raise the baseline of global aviation security.

To do that effectively, we must first acknowledge and demonstrate that security is a priority for us all. We must continue to work together in concert and embrace innovation. Our efforts can be a force multiplier to defend against attacks worldwide.

We now have the UN Security Council Resolution 2309, as well as ICAO's Global Aviation Security Plan to guide us. While these documents provide a roadmap, it is up to all of us to develop and implement concrete, tangible actions to make these goals and objectives a reality.

By embracing innovation and working together to address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, we can reduce the need for unilateral requirements for additional security measures.

Part of this is sharing of information with each other about where vulnerabilities exist. This, coupled with information about the threat, can help us determine the security outcomes we, together, wish to achieve. We must use the information gained from these exchanges to implement concrete, effective, and proactive actions to address emerging vulnerabilities.

We don't always know the details of every threat, but we do know our vulnerabilities. So I ask everyone here today to strongly embrace a proactive stance to aviation security.

Our aviation system is a global one, and terrorists are just as aware of that as we are. They recognize that harming one of us harms us all. This is why it's critical that we foster a collaborative environment where we work together to stop threats and address vulnerabilities.

Partnership and Innovation

As the TSA Administrator, innovation is one of my major focus areas. But I know that we are not the sole drivers of that innovation. We have much to learn from our partners around the world, and those here in the room today. We need you, our partners, to drive change in a way we collectively do business.

Working together we can focus on innovating security for the 21st century, on creating an innovative system that acknowledges its interconnected nature. In the future, I envision a system where security measures are seamless, capable of detecting and addressing threats instantaneously, and where passengers can be screened at walking pace.

These are ambitious goals and they could be a long way off, but I firmly believe that safeguarding aviation security for the traveling public requires ambitious goals and am commitment to improving security through partnership and innovation.

I applaud the work industry is already doing to embrace and improve security effectiveness through innovative approaches.

Initiatives such as the joint IATA ACI Smart Security Management Group where airlines, airports, and regulators exchange best practices and develop guidance on checkpoint screening technologies exemplify how we can collaborate to improve security detection capabilities and make this future state possible.

What TSA is Doing

I've already mentioned the importance of focusing on innovation, but let me explain how TSA is looking at it.

At TSA, we're looking at innovation through two lenses. One is technological innovation – how we can bring technology into our security environment to evolve the system. The other is process innovation – how are we using these technologies to improve security.

Our Innovation Task Force has been given the responsibility for answering these questions and for identifying new partners to help us evolve technologies, processes, and systems to transform the current security environment.

By partnering with both public and private stakeholders to enhance current technologies and develop new capabilities, we will be better positioned to identify and successfully integrate cutting-edge solutions throughout our global aviation system.

Right now, we are pursuing enhancements to our own screening capabilities – we are exploring the integration of computed tomography, or CT, into our checkpoints, leveraging biometrics technology, developing new screening procedures for accessible property, and pursuing pre-clearance agreements with new countries.

Also, thanks to the generosity of the airlines and airports, TSA was able to gather best practices from our partners around the world and install automatic screening lanes at many airports across the United States.

We are also improving training, leveraging new, effective research to improve security screening effectiveness and optimizing our approach to security staffing.

I am fully aware that there are areas where we're not taking full advantage of the technology we already have in place. So we're also continuing to partner with industry to make sure we maximize the impact of these investments.

We must continue to collaborate with our partners to assess the current vulnerabilities at airports today through joint vulnerability assessments with stakeholders. These evaluations will allow us to move away from a one-size-fits-all security system that is positioned to react to yesterday's threat, towards a security model that is both effective and flexible in managing tomorrow's emerging risks.

I encourage each of you to adopt an outcome-focused approach, as well as to identify the most effective and innovative targeted security measures that will raise the baseline of security.

It starts today and it starts here. If there's a better way to do business – one that increases our collective security posture – then let's work together. Representatives from TSA's Innovation Task Force are here, and I encourage you to reach out to them to start that conversation today.


In conclusion, I want to emphasize how important it is that we maintain an open dialogue. For us to evolve to meet the threat, it is vital, absolutely imperative, that we work closely with one another.

All of us here today have a role to play, from the policymakers to the operators to the manufacturers.

I pledge, as the TSA Administrator, to do whatever I can to be a great partner with you. I commit to you that the United States and TSA will continue to actively partner with you – through healthy and frank dialogue – to safeguard our shared, interconnected system that is so critical to the economic well-being and prosperity for all of us.

I thank you again for allowing me to share my thoughts with you this morning, and, above all, I thank you for your continued partnership. I wish you all well and hope you have a productive time here in Abu Dhabi.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you today, and I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can in my time here for the rest of the day. Thank you very much.