Vigilance must be eternal, and so too must be the commitment to progress; falling behind will only bring terrible consequences, says Kevin McGarr of the Canadian Air Transport Authority. Progress, some say, includes the standardization of security at airports worldwide.
While there are benefits to not falling into predictable patterns, or promoting the same security outcomes at all airports, McGarr also notes that we do not need to treat all airports exactly the same.
“What is good for one airport may not be good for another,” says McGarr. “One size does not fit all in terms of security procedures. What interests us is not uniformity of procedure, but uniformity of result. We need to work more closely with local airports to develop solutions that work for them.”
The TSA’s Mike Golden began by explaining the checkpoint evolution. The three main areas of focus for the TSA are the people, the process, and the technology, said Golden. Golden, as the chief technology officer, focused on the tech aspect of airport security.
Advanced Technology Screening has been the workhorse of the checkpoint, says Golden. These machines give the TSA huge capabilities in terms of multi-view capability, advanced imaging technologies, and automated detection. New whole-body imaging technology gives TSA “phenomenal capabilities” despite the privacy issues the technology raises.
Baggage screening technology improvements have also been made which have reduced false alarm rates and improved image quality and detection, says Golden.
TSA’s Systems Integration Facility (TSIF), opening in December, is a testing facility which contains a full inline system to simulate an airport environment and a small cargo area to test cargo technology as well, explains Golden.
“We have also been trying to harmonize with our partners overseas,” explains Golden regarding international security standards. “Just recently, we have signed a number of agreements with our European Union partners; for the first time we are actually able to share classified data, so we can start harmonizing.”
Airports are in the business of human beings, and they have to find a way to understand how they are going to deal with this global challenge, says Monhla Hlahla, CEO of the Airports Company South Africa. Hlahla backed her claim with the fact that airports facilitated about 4.7 billion passengers worldwide in 2007.
Strengthening the weakest link, as Hlahla relates, includes thinking of civil aviation as a network, making aviation security an integral part of national and global security, a call for innovation in ICAO and strategy review, and taking a system view to the problem by seeking to maximize strategy.
“I believe that we must incentivize ICAO and government,” says Hlahla. “Together, our views on security must stop being just about a new screening tube, or new automatic technology. It’s got to be very systemic; we should approach it the way we approach our businesses, otherwise, the smaller airports in the world will grow in their weakness.”
Tim Anderson of Minneapolis St-Paul International Airport stresses the importance of creating equilibrium. Anderson calls for analyzing state government funding versus industry funding, system needs versus budget reductions, reality versus expectations, human factors versus technology, and security versus privacy.
“The new normal, as I see it, is the same as the new trend that we have, and that’s in trying to develop a balance amongst a number of different things regarding security,” says Anderson. “Creating that balance is not very easy.”
As far as funding goes, Anderson believes that if we have an ongoing war on terrorism, than it should be the national governments and the states that provide the funding, not the airports. Anderson adds that ACI’s position on the issue is clear: Aviation security is part of a national security.
“It is the state and its foreign policies that are a target of terrorism; airports are simply the stage upon which that is acted,” said Anderson.
Theresa Coutu, director for Jacobs Consultancy, echoes Hlahla’s remarks on strategy relating that airports need to implement a common approach to flexible solutions with strategic analysis.
Coutu says airports must broaden their perspective and push for international standards. “Sustainable security solutions need to be developed and adapted regularly using strategic planning and analysis that finds the sweet spot for maximizing investments…, and sustainable security solutions need to also address non-security issues,” says Coutu.
Reporting from Dallas - event coverage of AAAE's annual conference and exposition.
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