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Transportation Security Administration

Remarks at the Air Line Pilots Association, International, Aviation Security Conference

Acting Administrator Huban Gowadia
Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
As Prepared for Delivery

Introduction

Thank you, Captain Canoll, for your kind introduction and invitation to speak here at ALPA’s Aviation Security Conference.

Good morning, everyone. It is an honor and pleasure to be here today, representing the proud men and women of the Transportation Security Administration. Allow me to kick things off by addressing the proverbial elephant in the room.

I am sure that you have heard that TSA is implementing enhanced security measures regarding personal electronic devices on flights inbound to the United States from 10 last point of departure airports, based upon evaluated intelligence information.

We are mindful of the impact additional security measures will have on trade and the traveling public, and we strive to achieve the delicate balance between free trade and travel, and the safety of the flying public. At this point, there’s not much more I can say on the topic, but I wanted to get that out of the way upfront.

DHS and TSA continue to work in close consultation with our federal partners and the Intelligence Community on matters of international security, to ensure the right measures are applied at the right locations for the right period of time. And speaking of partnership, TSA has been very fortunate to enjoy a strong relationship with the Air Line Pilots Association.

Security System and Culture

Earlier this month, I had a candid and productive conversation with ALPA leaders, where we covered a number of issues of mutual interest, including the potential development of a voluntary security reporting program that leverages information from front line employees.

At last summer’s Air Safety Forum, our former Administrator, Peter Neffenger, shared the Agency’s vision to reimagine transportation security as a dynamic and integrated system of interdependent actors. And that system extends beyond the traditional security players to encompass industry, academia, and, yes, commercial airline pilots and crewmembers.

Reservation to Destination

When we speak of aviation security, we still talk mostly of airport perimeters, public areas, checkpoints, and sterile areas. As Administrator Neffenger used to say, airports today involve a lot of waiting – to park, to check-in, to be screened, to board – all potential vulnerabilities.  This needs to change.

Airports of the future will be about moving – from reservation to destination – through an almost “invisible” yet integrated system of distributed security, with less stress and frustration for passengers and screeners, and, most importantly, less vulnerability.

We are thinking and designing less in terms of checkpoints, barriers, and fences, and more in terms of a security environment in which there are many partners – all operating together seamlessly. That mindset entails a graduated security model, with progressively more stringent checks as the passenger gets closer to the aircraft.

Those checks will rely on what we know about the individual based on information collected as far back as when the reservations were made – even further for those in Trusted Traveler Programs. Naturally, this idea requires seamless sharing of information across multiple nodes.

To that end, we are striving for a more open, secure, and interoperable architecture that will increase automation and integration. Furthermore, by developing an open systems architecture using risk analysis, TSA will be better positioned to understand and address capability gaps.

This, in turn, will ultimately lead to better, more informed requirements to procure and deploy new technologies.

Innovation Task Force

So, how do we accomplish all of this?

One avenue is our Innovation Task Force. We formalized it as a permanent entity; staffed it with creative, thoughtful, and energetic TSA people; and provided a platform for government, industry, and entrepreneurs to collaborate with one another. The future promises great steps forward and the Innovation Task Force is there to make good on that promise.

In addition to the oft-cited and ongoing success story of Automated Screening Lanes, the Innovation Task Force is leading a number of other exciting developments. For instance, Computed Tomography utilizes 3D-imaging and detection software to help operators automatically identify threats, which may eliminate the need for divestiture of liquids for carry-on passenger baggage screening. 

This technology has the potential to be a game-changer for TSA and passengers. Not only will TSA see increased security detection, but passengers could potentially experience a calmer, more pleasant checkpoint encounter. Demonstrations from three different manufacturers are scheduled to occur this year.

We are also excited about the potential of Biometric Authentication Technology, or BAT. We are envisioning a day when your face is your boarding pass. BAT uses facial or fingerprint data to identify known travelers and provide the appropriate level of screening. The initial BAT Proof of Concept (POC) demonstration is also planned for 2017 – this will be a busy year!

We are also exploring other ideas, such as avatar-based Passenger Communications and Enhanced Advanced Imaging Technology, as ways to advance checkpoint design and throughput. But innovation means more than shiny whiz-bang gadgets. Though I have to admit, as an engineer and self-professed nerd, I do like my gadgets.

Innovation at TSA means enculturating a creative mentality and an entrepreneurial spirit. It can be as simple as a standard operating procedure change to keep pace with changing circumstances, or as complex as a comprehensive overhaul of a system or culture to anticipate and stay ahead of the challenges on the horizon.

To support these sweeping changes, we have recently reengineered a number of our “back office” support functions, including acquisitions, procurement, and training. With the help of our industry partners, TSA is pushing forward to a future where security is more seamless and more transparent.

But the frontiers we must navigate to achieve that desired end state are not only technological, but geographical.

Global Aviation System

Recently, we received powerful impetus to strengthen and broaden the global aviation security system. With the unanimous adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2309 last fall, we have an historic mandate and an unprecedented opportunity to work across borders to develop a common strategy, determine objectives, and establish goals for a worldwide aviation security system.

Our aviation system is global in nature and must remain agile and responsive – that is an inescapable fact.

Partnerships

Because our vision for aviation security is both ambitious in scale and expansive in scope – again, think “reservation to destination” – the drive to cultivate and advance cooperation remains absolutely essential.

TSA can’t do all of this alone. We don’t own the system.

Airlines, airports, rail operators, transit providers, trucking and shipping companies, pipeline operators, other government agencies, travelers, and more – many of whom are represented in the room here today – are key players and co-owners. And we, together, share the responsibility to secure the system.

Robust partnerships with stakeholders have no doubt contributed to a more professional workforce, more capable technology, better integrated intelligence, more funding, improved operations, and greater innovation at the Agency.

I have long believed that the serious business of national security, of keeping our airports and aircraft safe, as well as enhancing the traveler experience where and when we can, is nothing if not a “team sport.” And in this sport, success is measured by the fruits of our cooperative efforts.

Known Crewmember Program

Indeed, we have our friends at ALPA to thank for originally proposing one of our most successful risk-based security initiatives, the Known Crewmember Program. By seamlessly aggregating airline employee databases, KCM allows our Officers to efficiently and positively verify the identity and employment status of crewmembers.

ALPA has been a vocal and energetic champion of KCM from its inception, and has worked closely with TSA and Airlines for America to make it a model for public-private collaboration.

To further that point, allow me to highlight some numbers.

As of this week, almost 67 million crewmembers have been alternately screened through KCM or its predecessor, CrewPass.

Last week, a total of nearly 406,000 flight crewmembers passed through 160 KCM access points at 73 airports across the nation.

In fact, within that same time span, two airports just joined the KCM family, and it is still growing. With an estimated 2.5 percent of the population removed from passenger screening checkpoints thanks to the KCM Program, the reach and impact of this time-saving, security-focused initiative is considerable.

Which is why I’m grateful that ALPA took to heart the concerns about KCM integrity TSA raised at our recent meeting, and reminded its membership that the program is a privilege that needs to be vigilantly safeguarded.

Many of today’s participants know our very own Capt. Eddie Mayenschein, who I am pleased to say is here all day and available for any further questions. As a 20-year ALPA member and the U.S Government’s executive sponsor of KCM, Eddie has made significant contributions to our partnership.

Federal Flight Deck Officer Program

Another success story shared by ALPA and TSA is support for the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program. FFDOs represent an important security element in the aviation system, and we continue to make strides in providing them the tools and processes needed to excel in that role.

We recently approved FFDO admittance to the sterile area at U.S. airports through KCM access points, which will streamline procedures while prioritizing security when implemented next Monday.

TSA thanks and appreciates the many airline pilots who volunteer their time and energy to patriotically serve as FFDOs, to be the last line of defense in protecting the flight deck.

FFDOs attend training to become and stay proficient in the requisite skills, typically at their own expense and using personal leave. I understand that the drive from Albuquerque International Sunport to training at FLETC-Artesia is no picnic either. That’s what I call dedication!

Their commitment and sacrifice are a credit to the pilot profession and a testament to the strength of our partnership. The FFDO Program is deservedly a source of pride for TSA as well as ALPA and its members.

We are truly, as the saying goes, “all in it together.” That is why it is equally important to acknowledge the work we still have left to do.

Air Cargo Security

So, for instance, we have been moving forward to harmonize security requirements for air cargo and passengers. And we have made solid headway with targeted initiatives like outcome-based Air Cargo Security Programs and Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS), which TSA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection initiated in 2010.

TSA leverages the latest intelligence and shipment data to identify high-risk cargo shipments and apply additional screening measures to mitigate those risks prior to transport on a commercial flight.

The progress and success of the ACAS program hinges on TSA and CBP working closely with industry to develop strategies and methodologies. With dozens of all-cargo and passenger air carriers already on board, and millions of shipments processed to date, the future is promising.

TSA Pre✓® for Crewmembers

And we don’t have to look far for another example of how TSA’s partnership with ALPA has yielded great results. Our TSA Pre✓® program permits uniformed crewmembers with proper identification to use TSA Pre✓® at all locations.

As you know, TSA Pre✓® is a critical element in helping to identify low-risk air travelers.

By providing a smart and efficient screening experience to enrollees, we’re answering the needs of travelers – including pilots – while improving security.

DHS now provides TSA Pre✓® screening at 159 airports through more than 550 screening lanes to over 4.4 million participants.

We are looking to aggressively expand enrollment and are engaging with our partners to help us achieve that goal. We’re also getting the word out to the first wave of Pre✓® “trailblazers,” whose five-year membership is expiring this year, to renew.

With that goal in mind, I am pleased to report that TSA – in collaboration and consultation with several airlines – also now permits certain airline employees, to include pilots, wearing civilian clothing to use TSA Pre✓® when they are traveling on their own airline and code share partners, provided they have proper identification and a boarding pass with TSA Pre✓® markings.

Closing

All these advances are part of the broader effort to nurture a comprehensive culture of security – not unlike our more mature culture of safety – in which partners seamlessly share responsibility and information throughout the system.

And we’ll succeed only with the commitment of those partners, our colleagues, like ALPA. We must continue to think forward and marshal our collective expertise, resources, and will to meet the latest challenges, such as unmanned aircraft systems and cyber-threats. Given the experience and passion of the participants in attendance here today, we certainly have reason to be optimistic.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you this morning.