Cost of Technology

May 8, 2004


Cost of Technology

By Jodi Richards

May 2004

At the 29th Annual FAA Aviation Forecast Conference held in Washington , D.C. in late March, Transportation Security Administra-tion deputy undersecretary of security for aviation operations Randy Null said technology holds a lot of promise for making aviation more secure. He also added that the cost of technology is an enormous hindrance.

Airports are investing millions of dollars to install in-line baggage screening systems, often with little or no hope of seeing reimbursement of costs from TSA. Null estimates, on average, it costs an airport $150-$300 million for an installation. While that sounds like a lot, can we put a dollar amount on necessities?

Security at our nation's airport is necessary. Who should pay for it?

I tend to agree with many of the airports and airlines. Security is a function of the national government and therefore should be paid for by the government. Whatever the cost, investing in technology that could prevent future terrorist attacks is always a worthy endeavor. Whether it's explosives detection equipment, trusted traveler programs, or antimissile technology. And, the Department of Homeland Security continues to pursue various security alternatives.

A team comprised of some ten defense suppliers, as well as AVISYS, Inc.; ARINC, Incorporated; and United Airlines recently received a $2 million system development and demonstration contract from the Department of Homeland Security Counter-MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) Special Projects Office. The award is part of Phase I of a two-year $100 million DHS research and develpment program to design and demonstrate infrared countermeasures against the potential MANPADS missile threat to U.S. commercial airliners.

The AVISYS team's answer is the Commercial Airliner Protection System (CAPS), a decoy-based infrared countermeasure solution said to be capable of defeating simultaneous launches from shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles.

During Phase I, the team will perform research studies to define a system design and implementation concept. They will then produce a preliminary design compatible with airline operations to be finalized and demonstrated in Phase II of the program, expected to begin in the third quarter of 2004.

Beginning in June, the TSA plans to conduct a pilot program in select airports it is calling Registered Traveler (RT). The pilot, which is expected to last some 90 days, is designed to, according to TSA's solicitation, "assess improvements in security and enhancements in customer service for Registered Travelers."

TSA estimates there will be 5,000 to 10,000 volunteer travelers that will participate in the RT Pilot. There will be no charge for participating.

Frequent travelers who meet certain eligibility criteria and agree to provide personal information to TSA that could be use as part of a security assessment check will be eligible for the pilot. Biometrics technology such as fingerprint or iris scan will be used for identification, along with the security assessment. Participants will be allowed to go through expedited security screening; however, all will still undergo basic screening procedures.

This might prove to be a valuable program, however I'm skeptical as to how much time/hassle this will really save travelers. I'm glad to see it's a voluntary program, though. Hopefully it stays that way. When technology and security begin to invade our lives without our permission, then the cost of security is too high.

Jodi Richards, Associate Editor
[email protected]