Aviation Security: Status of TSA's Acquisition of Technology for Screening Passenger Identification and Boarding Passes

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-06-19.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                            United States Government Accountability Office

GAO                         Testimony
                            Before the Subcommittee on
                            Transportation Security, Committee on
                            Homeland Security, House of
                            AVIATION SECURITY
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 1:30 p.m. EDT
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

                            Status of TSA’s Acquisition
                            of Technology for Screening
                            Passenger Identification
                            and Boarding Passes
                            Statement of Stephen M. Lord, Director
                            Homeland Security and Justice Issues

Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, and Members of the

I am pleased to be here today to discuss our past work examining the
Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) progress and challenges
in developing and acquiring technologies to address aviation security
needs. TSA’s acquisition programs represent billions of dollars in life
cycle costs and support a wide range of aviation security missions and
investments. Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the
Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and TSA have responsibilities
for researching, developing, and testing and evaluating new technologies,
including airport checkpoint screening technologies. Specifically, S&T is
responsible for the basic and applied research and advanced
development of new technologies, while TSA, through its Passenger
Screening Program, identifies the need for new checkpoint screening
technologies and provides input to S&T during the research and
development of new technologies, which TSA then procures and deploys.

TSA screens more than 600 million air passengers per year through
approximately 2,300 security checkpoint lanes at about 450 airports
nationwide, and must attempt to balance its aviation security mission with
concerns about efficiency and the privacy of the traveling public. The
agency relies upon multiple layers of security to deter, detect, and disrupt
persons posing a potential risk to aviation security. Part of its checkpoint
security controls include a manual review and comparison by a travel
document checker of each person’s boarding pass and identification,
such as passports or state-issued driver’s licenses. However, concerns
have been raised about security vulnerabilities in this process. For
example, in 2006, a university student created a website that enabled
individuals to create fake boarding passes. In addition, in 2011, a man
was convicted of stowing away aboard an aircraft after using an expired
boarding pass with someone else’s name on it to fly from New York to
Los Angeles. Recent news reports have also highlighted the apparent
ease of ordering high-quality counterfeit driver’s licenses from China. We
have previously reported on significant fraud vulnerabilities in the

Page 1                                                           GAO-12-826T
passport issuance process and on difficulties in detecting fraudulent
identity documentation, such as driver’s licenses. 1

In response to these vulnerabilities, and as part of its broader effort to
improve security and increase efficiency, TSA began developing
technology designed to automatically verify boarding passes and to better
identify altered or fraudulent passenger identification documents. TSA
plans for this technology, known as Credential Authentication
Technology/Boarding Pass Scanning Systems (CAT/BPSS), to eventually
replace the current procedure used by travel document checkers to detect
fraudulent or altered documents. However, we have previously reported
that DHS and TSA have experienced challenges in managing their
acquisition efforts, including implementing technologies that did not meet
intended requirements and were not appropriately tested and evaluated,
and have not consistently included completed analyses of costs and
benefits before technologies were implemented. 2

Since DHS’s inception in 2003, we have designated implementing and
transforming DHS as high risk because DHS had to transform 22
agencies—several with major management challenges—into one
department. 3 This high-risk area includes challenges in strengthening
DHS’s management functions, including acquisitions; the effect of those
challenges on DHS’s mission implementation; and challenges in
integrating management functions within and across the department and
its components. DHS currently has several plans and efforts under way to
address the high-risk designation as well as the more specific challenges
related to acquisition and program implementation that we have
previously identified. For example, DHS provided us with its Integrated
Strategy for High Risk Management in June 2012, which includes
management initiatives and corrective actions to address acquisition
management challenges, among other management areas. We will

  GAO, State Department: Significant Vulnerabilities in the Passport Issuance Process,
GAO-09-681T (Washington, D.C.: May 5, 2009), and Transportation Worker Identification
Credential: Internal Control Weaknesses Need to Be Corrected to Help Achieve Security
Objectives, GAO-11-657 (Washington, D.C.: May 10, 2011). We also have ongoing
classified work looking at the effectiveness of the travel document checker at detecting
fraudulent documents, which we expect to finalize later this summer.
  For example, see GAO, Homeland Security: DHS and TSA Face Challenges Overseeing
Acquisition of Screening Technologies, GAO-12-644T (Washington, D.C.: May 9, 2012).
    GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-11-278 (Washington, D.C.: Feb.16, 2011).

Page 2                                                                      GAO-12-826T
continue to monitor and assess DHS’s implementation and transformation
efforts through our ongoing and planned work, including the 2013 high-
risk update that we expect to issue in early 2013.

My statement today focuses on (1) the status of TSA’s CAT/BPSS
acquisition and the extent to which the related life cycle cost estimate is
consistent with best practices and (2) challenges we have previously
identified in TSA’s acquisition process to manage, test, acquire, and
deploy screening technologies. This statement also provides information
on issues for possible congressional oversight related to CAT/BPSS.

This statement is based on reports and testimonies we issued from
October 2009 through May 2012 related to TSA’s efforts to manage, test,
acquire, and deploy various technology programs. 4 In addition, we
obtained updated information in June 2012 from TSA on the status of its
efforts to implement our recommendations from these reports. For our
past work, we reviewed program schedules, planning documents, testing
reports, and other acquisition documentation. For some of the programs
we discuss in this testimony, we conducted site visits to a range of
facilities, such as national laboratories, airports, and other locations to
observe research, development, and testing efforts. We also conducted
interviews with DHS component program managers and DHS Science
and Technology Directorate officials to discuss issues related to individual
programs. More detailed information on the scope and methodology from
our previous work can be found within each specific report. In addition,
this statement contains new information we obtained from TSA in June
2012 on the status of its CAT/BPSS acquisition. We reviewed key
acquisition documents—including the mission needs statement
(September 2008), request for proposal (April 2011), operational
requirements document (August 2011), life cycle cost estimate
(November 2011), and acquisition program baseline (November 2011)—
interviewed officials from TSA’s Office of Security Capabilities, and
viewed a demonstration of the CAT/BPSS test units. We compared the

  See the related products list at the end of this statement. Examples of these technology
programs include advanced imaging technology (AIT)—commonly referred to as a full
body scanner—that screens passengers for metallic and nonmetallic threats including
weapons, explosives, and other objects concealed under layers of clothing; explosives
detection systems, which use X-rays with computer-aided imaging to automatically
recognize the characteristic signatures of threat explosives; and explosives trace detection
machines, in which a human operator (e.g., a baggage screener) uses chemical analysis
to manually detect traces of explosive materials’ vapors and residue.

Page 3                                                                         GAO-12-826T
life cycle cost estimate with best practices from our Cost Estimating and
Assessment Guide to determine whether the official cost estimates were
comprehensive (i.e., include all costs), accurate, well documented, and
credible. 5 We conducted all of our work in accordance with generally
accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that
we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to
provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our
audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a
reasonable basis for our findings based on our audit objectives. We
discussed new information in this statement with TSA officials and
incorporated their comments as appropriate.

In summary, TSA has completed its initial testing of the CAT/BPSS
technology and has begun operational testing at three airports. We found
the project’s associated life cycle cost estimate to be reasonably
comprehensive and well documented, although we are less confident in
its accuracy due to questions about the assumed inflation rate. In
addition, we could not evaluate its credibility because the current version
does not include an independent cost estimate or an assessment of how
changing key assumptions and other factors would affect the estimate.
Our past work has identified three key challenges related to TSA’s efforts
to acquire and deploy technologies to address homeland security needs:
(1) developing and meeting technology program requirements, (2)
overseeing and conducting testing of new screening technologies, and (3)
developing acquisition program baselines to establish initial cost,
schedule, and performance parameters.

 GAO, GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Developing and
Managing Capital Program Costs, GAO-09-3SP (Washington, D.C.: March 2009).

Page 4                                                                GAO-12-826T
                        CAT/BPSS, which is part of TSA’s Passenger Screening Program, has
CAT/BPSS Is in the      undergone initial testing and is in the operational testing and evaluation
Operational Testing     phase of acquisition, according to TSA. The goal of CAT/BPSS is to
                        deploy a computerized system that will read and analyze data and
and Evaluation Phase,   embedded security features on every passenger’s identification and some
and the Life Cycle      boarding passes, and to identify fraudulent credentials and boarding
Cost Estimate Is Not    passes. In 2011, TSA conducted qualification testing of this system at its
                        System Integration Facility at Washington Reagan National Airport,
Fully Consistent with   including testing the systems against more than 530 genuine and
Best Practices          fraudulent documents, such as state-issued driver’s licenses, passports,
                        and military identification cards, according to TSA. The technology is
                        designed to automatically compare a passenger’s identification with a set
                        of embedded security features to seek to identify indicators of fraud and
                        concurrently ensure that the information on the identification and boarding
                        pass matches. This system is intended to help ensure that identity
                        credentials and boarding passes presented at the checkpoint have not
                        been tampered with or fraudulently produced, and that the information on
                        the boarding pass matches that of the identity credential. According to
                        TSA, CAT/BPSS is to compare identity credentials with an internal
                        database of more than 2,400 templates for various types of credentials
                        and to check for certain embedded security features, then alert the
                        operator of any discrepancies.

                        In September 2011, TSA awarded contracts for approximately $3.2
                        million, which included the purchase of 30 units from three different
                        vendors. 6 In April 2012, TSA began deploying units to three airports—
                        George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Luis Muñoz Marín International
                        in San Juan, and Washington Dulles International—in preparation for
                        initial operational testing. TSA officials said that those airports were
                        selected, in part, because of their high passenger volume and experience
                        with detecting fraudulent documents. In preparation for initial testing, TSA
                        tested the performance of its current process for comparison purposes.
                        TSA is also training personnel on the CAT/BPSS systems, collecting
                        preliminary data on system performance and availability, and assessing
                        the adequacy of the concept of operations and standard operating
                        procedures. According to TSA officials, these efforts will allow travel
                        document checkers at the three airports to test the three systems in an

                         According to TSA, the $3.2 million included costs for maintenance, database updates,
                        and training, among other things.

                        Page 5                                                                     GAO-12-826T
operational environment and provide feedback on the systems’
performance. During operational testing, TSA plans to assess the
systems’ performance against key performance parameters for detection,
passenger throughput, and availability. Once operational testing is
complete, TSA plans to produce a system evaluation report and
recommend whether to move forward with the acquisition or make
modifications. Vendors that successfully exit the operational testing phase
will be eligible to compete for a contract to produce 1,400 units, according
to TSA.

According to the life cycle cost estimate for the Passenger Screening
Program, of which CAT/BPSS is a part, the estimated 20-year life cycle
cost of CAT/BPSS is approximately $130 million based on a procurement
of 4,000 units. 7 As highlighted in our Cost Estimating and Assessment
Guide, a reliable cost estimate has four characteristics—it is
comprehensive, well documented, accurate, and credible. 8 We reviewed
TSA’s November 2011 life cycle cost estimate for the Passenger
Screening Program and compared it with the four characteristics. Based
on our assessment, the life cycle cost estimate is reasonably
comprehensive and well documented. Regarding accuracy, the cost
estimate assumes a 1 percent inflation rate from fiscal years 2015
through 2029, as compared with the historic inflation rates calculated for
fiscal years 2009 through 2014, which ranged from 3.3 to 4.5 percent. If a
larger inflation rate were used, costs would be much higher than what are
currently estimated. In addition, we cannot make a determination as to
the credibility of the life cycle cost estimate as it does not include a risk
and uncertainty analysis or an independent cost estimate. The risk
assessment would quantify risks and identify effects of changing key cost
driver assumptions and factors. 9 In the cost estimate, TSA indicates that it
is pursuing the acquisition of risk analysis capability and plans on having
such capabilities in time for the next life cycle cost estimate. Likewise,
there is no evidence that an independent cost estimate was conducted by
a group outside the acquiring organization to determine whether other

  This includes an initial procurement of 1,400 units in fiscal year 2013, and an additional
2,600 replacement units by fiscal year 2029.
  GAO-09-3SP. The DHS Cost Analysis Division has implemented our Cost Estimating
and Assessment Guide as the standard for cost estimating at DHS.
  DHS did not approve the life cycle cost estimate due to the lack of risk and sensitivity
analysis, according to TSA.

Page 6                                                                          GAO-12-826T
                        estimating methods would produce similar results. TSA officials indicated
                        that the agency is updating its life cycle cost estimate to include a risk and
                        uncertainty analysis and independent cost estimate, but the document
                        has not yet been approved.

                        The agency plans to expand the CAT/BPSS deployment schedule
                        following successful implementation and testing in the selected airport
                        environments. As of June 2012, TSA officials estimated that this could
                        occur as soon as the end of this calendar year, depending on the results
                        of the operational testing and evaluation phase.

                        Our past work has identified three key challenges related to TSA’s efforts
Previously Identified   to acquire and deploy technologies to address homeland security needs:
Challenges TSA Faces    (1) developing and meeting technology program requirements, (2)
                        overseeing and conducting testing of new screening technologies, and (3)
in Overseeing           developing acquisition program baselines to establish initial cost,
Acquisition of          schedule, and performance parameters.
Screening               We have previously reported that DHS and TSA have faced challenges in
Technologies            developing and meeting program requirements when acquiring screening
                        technologies, and that program performance cannot be accurately
                        assessed without valid baseline requirements established at the program
                        start. In June 2010, for example, we reported that more than half of the 15
                        DHS programs we reviewed awarded contracts to initiate acquisition
                        activities without component or department approval of documents
                        essential to planning acquisitions, setting operational requirements, or
                        establishing acquisition program baselines. 10 We made a number of
                        recommendations to help address issues related to these procurements.
                        DHS generally agreed with these recommendations and, to varying
                        degrees, has begun taking actions to address them. We currently have
                        ongoing work related to this area and we plan to report the results later
                        this fall. 11 At the program level, in May 2012, we reported that TSA did not
                        fully follow DHS acquisition policies when acquiring advanced imaging

                          GAO, Department of Homeland Security: Assessments of Selected Complex
                        Acquisitions, GAO-10-588SP (Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2010). Three of 15 were TSA
                           We are conducting this work at the request of the Senate Committee on Homeland
                        Security and Governmental Affairs and the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations,
                        and Management of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

                        Page 7                                                                     GAO-12-826T
technology (AIT), or body scanners, which resulted in DHS approving full
AIT deployment without full knowledge of TSA’s revised specifications. 12
As a result, we found that TSA procured and deployed a technology that
met evolving requirements, but not the initial requirements included in its
key acquisition requirements document that the agency initially
determined were necessary to enhance the aviation system. We
recommended that TSA develop a road map that outlines vendors’
progress in meeting all key performance parameters. DHS agreed with
our recommendation and has begun taking action to address it.

We have also reported on DHS and TSA challenges in overseeing and
testing new screening technologies, which can lead to costly redesign
and rework at a later date. Addressing such problems before moving to
the acquisition phase can help agencies better manage costs. For
example, in October 2009, we reported that TSA had deployed explosives
trace portals, a technology for detecting traces of explosives on
passengers at airport checkpoints, in January 2006 even though TSA
officials were aware that tests conducted during 2004 and 2005 on earlier
models of the portals suggested the portals did not demonstrate reliable
performance in an airport environment. 13 In June 2006, TSA halted
deployment of the explosives trace portals because of performance
problems and high installation costs. In our 2009 report, we
recommended that, to the extent feasible, TSA ensure that tests are
completed before deploying new checkpoint screening technologies to
airports. DHS concurred with the recommendation and has taken action
to address it, such as requiring more-recent technologies to complete
both laboratory and operational tests prior to deployment.

DHS and TSA have also experienced challenges identifying acquisition
program baselines, which include program schedules and costs. Our prior
work has found that realistic acquisition program baselines with stable
requirements for cost, schedule, and performance are among the factors
that are important to successful acquisitions delivering capabilities within
cost and schedule. We also found that program performance metrics for

  See GAO-12-644T, in which we publicly reported some of the findings and
recommendations from our January 2012 classified report on TSA’s procurement and
deployment of AIT, commonly referred to as full body scanners, at airport checkpoints.
   GAO, Aviation Security: DHS and TSA Have Researched, Developed, and Begun
Deploying Passenger Checkpoint Screening Technologies, but Continue to Face
Challenges, GAO-10-128 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 7, 2009).

Page 8                                                                       GAO-12-826T
cost and schedule can provide useful indicators of the health of
acquisition programs. For example, we reported in April 2012 that TSA
has not had a DHS-approved acquisition program baseline since the
inception of the Electronic Baggage Screening Program (EBSP) more
than 8 years ago. 14 Further, DHS did not require TSA to complete an
acquisition program baseline until November 2008. According to TSA
officials, they have twice submitted an acquisition program baseline to
DHS for approval—first in November 2009 and again in February 2011.
An approved baseline would provide DHS with additional assurances that
TSA’s approach is appropriate and that the capabilities being pursued are
worth the expected costs. In November 2011, because TSA did not have
a fully developed life cycle cost estimate as part of its acquisition program
baseline for the EBSP, DHS instructed TSA to revise the life cycle cost
estimates as well as its procurement and deployment schedules to reflect
budget constraints. DHS officials told us that they could not approve the
acquisition program baseline as written because TSA’s estimates were
significantly over budget. TSA officials stated that TSA is currently
working with DHS to amend the draft program baseline and plans to
resubmit the revised acquisition program baseline before the next
Acquisition Review Board meeting, which is planned for July or August
2012. Establishing and approving a program baseline, as DHS and TSA
plan to do for the EBSP, could help DHS assess the program’s progress
in meeting its goals and achieve better program outcomes.

Our prior work on TSA acquisition management identified oversight
problems that have led to cost increases, delivery delays, and other
operational challenges for certain assets, such as EBSP, but TSA has
also taken several steps to improve its acquisition management. For
example, while we continue to find that some TSA acquisition programs
do not have key documents needed for properly managing acquisitions,
CAT/BPSS has a DHS-approved mission needs statement, operational
requirements document, and acquisition program baseline. 15

  GAO, Checked Baggage Screening: TSA Has Deployed Optimal Systems at the
Majority of TSA-Regulated Airports, but Could Strengthen Cost Estimates, GAO-12-266
(Washington, D.C.: Apr. 27, 2012).
     The life cycle cost estimate was approved by TSA but not by DHS.

Page 9                                                                   GAO-12-826T
                   This hearing provides an opportunity for congressional stakeholders to
Congressional      focus a dialogue on how to continue a sufficient level of oversight of the
Oversight Issues   CAT/BPSS acquisition and implementation and other key components of
                   the Passenger Screening Program. For example, relevant questions that
                   could be raised include the following:

                   •   To what extent, if any, have key performance parameters changed
                       during the course of the acquisition, and how will these changes affect
                       security and efficiency at the checkpoint? What would be TSA’s
                       strategy if vendors have difficulty meeting the key performance
                   •   How will TSA ensure that implementation of the system addresses the
                       security vulnerabilities previously identified?
                   •   What confidence does TSA have in its cost estimates and how is the
                       agency mitigating the risk of cost escalation or schedule delays?
                   •   In managing limited resources to mitigate a potentially unlimited range
                       of security threats, how does CAT/BPSS fit into TSA’s broader
                       aviation security strategy? What cost-benefit and related analyses, if
                       any, are being used to guide TSA decision makers?
                   These types of questions and related issues warrant ongoing
                   consideration by TSA management and continued oversight by
                   congressional stakeholders.

                   Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, and Members of the
                   Committee, this concludes my prepared statement. I look forward to
                   responding to any questions that you may have.

                   For questions about this statement, please contact Steve Lord at (202)
GAO Contact and    512-4379 or lords@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of
Staff              Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page
                   of this statement. Individuals making key contributions to this statement
Acknowledgment     include Jessica Lucas-Judy, Assistant Director; Carissa Bryant; Jennifer
                   Echard; Laurier Fish; Tom Lombardi; and Katherine Trimble. Key
                   contributors for the previous work that this testimony is based on are
                   listed within each individual product.

                   Page 10                                                         GAO-12-826T
Related GAO Products
             Related GAO Products

             Homeland Security: DHS and TSA Face Challenges Overseeing
             Acquisition of Screening Technologies. GAO-12-644T. Washington, D.C.:
             May 9, 2012.

             Checked Baggage Screening: TSA Has Deployed Optimal Systems at the
             Majority of TSA-Regulated Airports, but Could Strengthen Cost
             Estimates. GAO-12-266. Washington, D.C.: April 27, 2012.

             Transportation Security Administration: Progress and Challenges Faced
             in Strengthening Three Key Security Programs. GAO-12-541T.
             Washington D.C.: March 26, 2012.

             Homeland Security: DHS and TSA Acquisition and Development of New
             Technologies. GAO-11-957T. Washington, D.C.: September 22, 2011.

             Aviation Security: TSA Has Made Progress, but Additional Efforts Are
             Needed to Improve Security. GAO-11-938T. Washington, D.C.:
             September 16, 2011.

             Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made and Work Remaining
             in Implementing Homeland Security Missions 10 Years after 9/11.
             GAO-11-881. Washington, D.C.: September 7, 2011.

             Homeland Security: DHS Could Strengthen Acquisitions and
             Development of New Technologies. GAO-11-829T. Washington, D.C.:
             July 15, 2011.

             Aviation Security: TSA Has Taken Actions to Improve Security, but
             Additional Efforts Remain. GAO-11-807T. Washington, D.C.: July 13,

             Aviation Security: TSA Has Enhanced Its Explosives Detection
             Requirements for Checked Baggage, but Additional Screening Actions
             Are Needed. GAO-11-740. Washington, D.C.: July 11, 2011.

             Homeland Security: Improvements in Managing Research and
             Development Could Help Reduce Inefficiencies and Costs.
             GAO-11-464T. Washington D.C.: March 15, 2011.

             High-Risk Series: An Update. GAO-11-278. Washington D.C.: February
             16, 2011.

             Page 11                                                       GAO-12-826T
           Related GAO Products

           Department of Homeland Security: Assessments of Selected Complex
           Acquisitions. GAO-10-588SP. Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2010.

           Aviation Security: Progress Made but Actions Needed to Address
           Challenges in Meeting the Air Cargo Screening Mandate. GAO-10-880T.
           Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2010.

           Aviation Security: TSA Is Increasing Procurement and Deployment of
           Advanced Imaging Technology, but Challenges to This Effort and Other
           Areas of Aviation Security Remain. GAO-10-484T. Washington, D.C.:
           March 17, 2010.

           Aviation Security: DHS and TSA Have Researched, Developed, and
           Begun Deploying Passenger Checkpoint Screening Technologies, but
           Continue to Face Challenges. GAO-10-128. Washington, D.C.: October
           7, 2009.

           GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide: Best Practices for
           Developing and Managing Capital Program Costs. GAO-09-3SP.
           Washington, D.C.: March 2009.

           Page 12                                                     GAO-12-826T
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