Blending TSA, Expansion

Sept. 8, 2002

Blending TSA, Expansion

by John Infanger

September 2002

Acting MSN director Dave Jensen, right, and deputy director Bill LeGore.

Industry Security Briefs

The latest from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other sources

• TSA reports that by the end of August it had expected to have sent site survey teams, via contractor Lockheed Martin, to 390 U.S. airports for assessment of checkpoint configuration. At the same time, contractor Boeing was expected to have visited 250 airports to assess locations for explosive detection equipment.
• Federal security directors (FSDs), appointed by TSA, tell the Senate Commerce Committee that they expect to have open lines of communication with airport operators and other airport stakeholders.
• Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is quoted in Kansas City and St. Louis newspapers as favoring the extension of the year-end luggage screening deadlines. According to AIRPORTS, Ridge’s office later backed away from the remarks.
• The Aviation Security Enhancement Act, sponsored by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), would give TSA more flexibility in meeting the 2002 deadlines, and would require airports to notify the agency by Nov. 1 if they will be unable to meet them. TSA and the airports would then work together on an alternative plan. A similar bill is under consideration in the Senate.
• TSA publishes in the August 8 Federal Register its interim rules (TSAR 1503) for investigative and enforcement procedures, which become effective February 8, 2003. Rule reportedly reflects most existing FAA procedures.

Madison plans to meet the 12/31 deadline with an array of temporary ETDs in front of the airline ticket counters, where passengers queue. Its plan calls for three permanent EDS machines, with a backup fourth, placed between airline counters and the ramp. When a suspect bag needs to be reconciled, the passenger will be paged. Says MSN director Dave Jensen, "The thing that we’re concerned about is the [EDS] failure rate."
When fully renovated in 2004, the Dane County Regional Airport will go from nine to 13 gates, lined in a three-tier approach: small commuters to regionals to larger bodied aircraft. Officials are designing their airport for more direct service via RJs. It currently serves as a significant feeder to Northwest’s hubs, adding Memphis this fall.

Examination of how Madison, WI, is moving forward, adjusting
MADISON, WI — On 9/11/01, executives at Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) were in the midst of reconstructing their terminal, itself not 20 years old. A strong air carrier market was growing at 3 percent per year. The airport’s infrastructure needed to grow. During the past year, officials here have adjusted and modified and kept building. The main questions unanswered: Will TSA buy in? And, will it all work?\

Acting airport director David C. Jensen and his team have worked to keep the overall renovation project moving, while trying to anticipate modifications that might be required by the Transportation Security Administration. Acting deputy director William G. LeGore estimates the airport has already spent some $1 million in modifications to the original $58 million project.
Says Jensen, "We’re probably ahead of most airports because of where we were in our expansion plans. Immediately after 9/11, with what we saw coming down the road, we began a redesign of the building and putting in the threat protection."
Yet, sharing the experience of most U.S. airports since the TSA took over the nation’s airport security responsibility, officials here have had little definitive direction from the agency. In late July, however, the inspection teams of Boeing and Lockheed, TSA agents, came to Madison to conduct their security analysis and hold meetings with airport and airline officials.
Interestingly, a forum of U.S. mayors earlier in the year brought TSA officials to Madison, at which time airport officials were able to spend considerable time with then-TSA Undersecretary John Magaw.
Explains Jensen, "We engaged Magaw to get these teams here earlier because of the design considerations on a project that was in process. And that’s what happened. I understand we had been scheduled for later. The Boeing guy told me, ’You guys got put on the top of the pile.’
"The Boeing and Lockheed teams were very pleased with our plan, and only slight modifications were done."

Anticipating TSA needs
As Jensen and his team have attempted to anticipate TSA needs and requirements, they have worked to put in place proposals that they call reasonable, and ones with which they are comfortable.
Explains Jensen, "We have tried to provide different solutions that we could implement very easily, that are of a responsible nature, to comply with the mandates. Then, the TSA can put Madison airport to bed and not have to worry about it anymore. We know that they’ve got a big job to accomplish.
"We want to be as proactive, as partnering, as possible with the TSA and make their job easier. We’re providing solutions; we just need answers back to get the go-ahead."
The first issue on Jensen’s list is law enforcement officers (LEOs). His recommendation: "Make the local law enforcement presence here permanent." As at many airports, the airport has a long-standing working relationship with local LEOs, in this case the Sheriff’s office. According to Jensen, an agreement inked between the county and the TSA is contracting for Sheriff’s officers to continue conducting security functions at Dane County Regional through 2003, at an overtime rate of $52/hour. Jensen would like to make the arrangement permanent, which would give the Sheriff’s office justification for hiring four recruits while reducing the cost to $41/hour.
Another key issue for Jensen: Eliminate the open bid process for airport projects that are security sensitive, and replace it with a quality-based selection process. He is concerned that anyone posing as a prospective bidder can obtain the specs.
"We feel it is irresponsible to go out for bid through the normal process because of all the security-related modifications and accommodations of our new, expanded terminal, which includes TSA-mandated provisions. We’ve hardened the building; we’ve designed new checkpoints, new baggage screening areas; and we’ve made provisions to prevent biochem types of incidents. We’ve enhanced our inherent airport security system — the cameras, the doors.
"We feel the responsible thing to do is to go through a quality-based selection process, where we pre-qualify contractors and their sub-contractors, and give them copyrighted sets of our plans and specifications. Then they can go through a competitive bid."
Another of Jensen’s issues found its answer the very day of this interview: Getting in place the new federal security director, who was subsequently named and with whom Jensen says he is "very pleased."

Screening Options
To meet the December 31 baggage screening deadline, Madison officials expect to see a series of electronic trace detection devices in front of the eight airline ticket counters, creating an anticipated logjam in a modest lobby.
Longer term, officials have redesigned the terminal project to include a hold room for three inline explosive detection systems, and in time a fourth as a spare. Bags checked in at the airlines follow a conveyor to the EDS room, and then back to the individual carriers’ ramps. The airport’s largest carrier, Northwest, has expressed a desire to stay with a process using ETDs.
Comments Madison customer service manager Peter M. Hinton of Northwest Airlines, regarding the ability to match suspect bags with passengers, "How are we going to do that? The passenger is going to be away from the luggage; it’s going to be a real issue. But Madison isn’t the only one facing that issue. Maybe we should continue to use the ETD machines; rather than an interim process maybe it should be a permanent process."
Yet, Hinton remains optimistic that the year-end deadline of screening all luggage at MSN will be achieved. "I think 100 percent screening can be accomplished by the end of 2002, with the assumption that we’ll get an adequate number of ETD machines and an adequate number of personnel to run those ETDs. The burden is on the TSA."
Jensen says TSA indicates it will need some 200 employees to conduct screening at MSN, handled today with some 90 employees, many part time. TSA’s total space requirements were unknown in August, but the airport has a vacant weather office available. Officials here say they are prepared to redesign. "We don’t have any space in the terminal at all," says Jensen. "We will have some available to them once our expansion is complete."