LOS ANGELES — When Congress charged the Transportation Security Administration with securing U.S. airports, it turned to Boeing for analyzing the passenger screening needs and implementation of subsequent programs nationwide. At the helm for Boeing for this initiative was Rick Stephens. Today, the challenge is to sustain and maintain, says Stephens, and create standards for the long term. A study by Boeing and industry groups is the first step.
Stephens is the vice president of Homeland Security and Services, under Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems division. He formerly headed up the company’s Space Shuttle division, involved with the creation of the International Space Station.
During the AAAE convention held here this spring, Stephens discussed his company’s role in the process and where airport security is headed. Some edited highlights ...
On Boeing’s qualifications for the security challenge ...
“If you look at Boeing today, about half of the business is commercial aviation, and about half is integrated defense systems. We have always been involved in large-scale systems integration projects.
“We’re working with the Army today to help it rearchitect what the Army is all about. The reason the Army selected us to do this job is because of our large-scale systems integration capability, and our ability to pull lots of information together, integrated, in a way that makes sense to the Army leadership. We call that network-enabled operations.”
On Boeing’s current role ...
“We’re in the process of sustain and maintain: maintain all of the equipment that’s out there today, and sustain, which is to help move the equipment from the lobbies to the bag rooms as it makes sense, or optimize what is currently in the lobbies to improve passenger flow.
“We are working with airports, trucking, rail, seaports, to help them to see how they can begin to use the information systems that are out there, with sensors in place, integrate information, and help them get a better sense of situational awareness at their airports or seaports or [transit], and then help them put in place the right decision aids and processes from a command control [perspective].
“Homeland security is about detection and prevention.”
On a comprehensive security study being conducted by Boeing with ATA, AAAE, ACI-NA, and TSA ...
“The study has three objectives. First, let’s understand the financial and business model amongst all the stakeholders. If you understand the financial relationship — from a Congressional standpoint or that of the leadership of the airport — decisions can be made about the best way to move forward and to know the impact on respective stakeholders.
“The second element is to look and say, What is the security model that we have in place? Certainly Congress has mandated what is in place today, but as we go forward we’re getting a lot smarter about technology that’s available; a lot smarter about integrated systems that are available. And, how do you begin to deploy those so that you maintain a robust, integrated aviation security system? You’ve got to have a model that we can all look at and say, not only financially do we understand it, but we also understand what the security implications are.
“The third element is, given what we understand about the first two, what recommendations will we make to those who are making their capital decisions about airports in the future? What’s the design look like? What are the imbedded architectures you need from an information and a sensor sweep standpoint? How do you work the command and control? How do you work the processes?
“If I was going to start today designing an airport, I’d certainly do it differently than I would have three years ago.”
On lessons from airports in Jack-sonville and Boston, which have installed integrated, in-line baggage screening systems ...
“We did the installations of the equipment at both; but I will tell you that they were well along their paths. I think there’s a lot of good information that we can learn out of each.
“At Boston Logan, I think they’ve learned a lot about bringing stakeholders together, about the business model. They’ve learned an awful lot also about the risks that are put in place when someone goes out ahead of the pack, and how to arrange the financing associated with that.
“They learned about the efficiencies that you get with in-line systems; there are some positive and negative things people need to consider. On the positive side, you move the screening of bags out of lobbies and put them all back to where we all want to have them, in the bag room area. We’ve also learned, though, that the in-line systems are much more complex than the baggage systems that were there before.
“One of the things that airports are beginning to learn is that the cost of maintaining these baggage handling systems that do in-line screening is more expensive. Who’s responsible for paying for those increased costs?
“We don’t have a good model for discussing where that financial responsibility rests. I don’t think we have a common understanding about what the implications are when we put these in-line systems in, which is one of the reasons why we’re in fact sponsoring this aviation security study.”