Securing America's Airports and Waterways

Report Homeland Security

Securing America's Airports and Waterways

May 28, 2002 14 min read
The Michael P. Jackson

In 216 B.C., Hannibal invaded Southern Italy and it was a disaster. The Romans were routed and Rome was not used to this. Rome was used to winning the war and dominating its world.

So Cicero wrote about how this horrific event, this defeat, this terrible battle, was received in Rome. He said: "The news was received in Rome more heroically than any victory and without the slightest signs of fear. Suggestions of peace did not exist."

I think this line of Cicero aptly characterizes the way the American people have responded to the terrorist events of September 11. The slaughter of our citizens and citizens of the world on that day by the terrorists, the ones that President Bush has called "The Evil Ones," has really been a source of growing together behind our common purpose to be strong, to make our country stronger, and to fight back and ward off the terrorist threat against our nation.

The President's determination to get the job done, I can tell you from firsthand experience, is unshakeable and calm but determined. He is determined to get the job done.


Secretary Norman Mineta and the Department of Transportation team have tried to take that same type of enduring commitment to the task that I'm talking about today, which is how to improve security in our transportation networks--air, land, and sea. It is not something that we can deal with by flipping a switch and making the problems go away. Our system is vast and complex, and there are vulnerabilities in it that must be narrowed, but we can never leach out all of the risk in our world.

The first night after the terrorists had done their deeds, when we went back up to the Department and began to try to figure out what we needed to know before we let airplanes once again take off into our skies, we were dwelling on this problem and thinking about this question of narrowing vulnerability gaps and how you do it one step at a time. That's the process that we began on the night of September 11: one step at a time to analyze how to make it better, stronger, tougher, and more impermeable. That's the job that we're about today.

So we have created a very large agency, the Transportation Security Administration, with the Congress. We had some good vigorous debate in the Congress about how to structure it, what to do, but we've come upon a solid structure that will serve us well. It's multi-modally focused. It is an agency which will have its focus on all modes of transportation and strengthening all modes of transportation.

This agency will increase the size of the Department of Transportation by over half again. So we have a very large deployment, a very large mission, the largest new deployment of federal resources in a new agency since World War II.


Today, I wanted to give you an update on how we're doing, what we're doing, but within a context of talking about this issue: What are the underlying principles and the underlying process that we are using to take this challenge on? How are we doing it? What are the things that drive us in our work?

First, an acknowledgement that the system needs fundamental change. The old system was the wrong set of incentives to get the outcomes that we needed, and the performance was just not good enough.

Second, we cannot do this overnight, but there must be an urgency about our mission. We must have a pace of change which is not business as usual. We have to build in the capacity to break china and the will to do so routinely to get this job done.

Balancing Security and Service.
We need what Secretary Mineta has said we need: the balance between world-class security and world-class customer service. People who routinely sit through these conversations with the DOT staff are going to get tired, perhaps, of hearing about this balance of world-class security and world-class customer service, but we're not going to get tired of trying to deliver it and figure out what that means and make that work, because it's only in this type of balance that we're going to be successful in doing what we need to do.

If the lines at airports are two hours long, we will not have people flying in our system. If people can't be confident that the hassle factor is manageable, we will not have people flying in our system. By the same token, if we cannot keep the "Evil Ones" off our airplanes and deal with the terrorist threat, then we have no business being in business.

Behaving Entrepreneurially.
In addition, a principle that has guided us is that, in the authority and structure of the new agency, we must build the capacity to behave like an entrepreneurial organization. We have to act like an entrepreneurial organization.

We are bolted to and must support commercial business operations. In the rail industry, in the maritime world, in the airports, whether it's pipeline security or Amtrak security, what we are about is making commercial transportation networks work safely and efficiently. So we have to understand that our job requires us to behave and to be structured and have a culture that is not your normal government bureaucratic organization. That is a challenge for us, and one that we are working on.

Leveraging Innovation.
To make all this work, we have to leverage a spirit of innovation in the job that we have at hand. How are we doing that? How do we reconcile these things? What are we up to?

First of all, we brought in, even prior to passage of the legislation, the kernel of the team of advisers from around the government and from outside the government who would help us think through how to do this.

The first things that we did were to take tools from the private sector, from large corporations, from consulting firms that manage the merger of large entities in the government and outside the government, and lay out a process that was going to allow us to manage and grow. It had nothing to do with the substance; it had everything to do with management skills.

There have been piles of ink written about what it means to have an MBA President, but I will tell you that when the DOT senior management team briefed this President, he understood intuitively how we cross-walked the process mapping tools that we were bringing to place with the metrics and measurement tools that we were bringing not only to run the stand-up of the agency, but to run the agency itself.

So we've tried to take these tools from the private world and bolt them into an environment in which they do not typically live.

Deploying Study Teams.
To do that, we set in place a whole process of teams to study individual problems. We started out with about eight or 10 things that had to be resolved in the next two or three weeks after passage of the legislation. They have now grown to some 40-plus teams, working on various things from specific technology issues to specific procurements, to research and development efforts, to human resources issues, to management and structural organizational issues.

We have deployed a group of folks from, again, outside and inside the government. We've taken people from multiple agencies, and we have also brought in people from some of the largest corporations in the world.

We've brought a person from Intel to help us work on procurement. This individual did Y2K compliance for Intel, a person who is used to a pretty pressurized environment in which there was no variance around success. We've got a quality person who helped Selectron win two Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards and is now himself a Baldrige judge. We've got people from Disney, from FedEx, from Marriott who are working on measuring success and who are helping us take measurement tools and quality processes and bolt them into the culture of this new organization.

So the first thing that we've done is, we've tried to import a spirit of innovation and excellence and build a quality process into this new government entity. Then we've gone out and hired some terrifically good people to work on this over the long haul.

These loaners from the outside will work for a while and go back away into their real jobs. But we are bringing in John Magaw as Under Secretary of Transportation for Security to head this new agency, someone with tremendous law enforcement background experience, putting this team together.


How does this spirit of doing business in non-traditional ways manifest itself in getting the job done? We have some crushing deadlines to meet, and we are going to meet them.

So far, we have met every single congressional deadline that was written in the statute, at 30 days, at 60 days, at 90 days. We will meet the requirements to have all airports covered with a federal workforce by the end of the one-year period since enactment on November 18. We will also meet the requirement to deploy explosive detection equipment into airports around the country by the end of the year. We have no choice but to do that.

Let me talk to you about four or five big moving parts. First, let me say a word about the news that was reported yesterday in USA Today about probing of the system done by the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation.

A New Way of Doing Business.
After the events of September 11, we knew that we would move to a new and transformed way of doing business in airports. We asked the Attorney General, the President, the Inspector General to undertake a comprehensive effort to probe weaknesses in the aviation environment.

This was the ground upon which we would then construct a training program, a vulnerability assessment, and a careful analysis of how to improve this process. Did we find problems? Yes, we did. Did we know that we would have problems? Yes, we did.

We are using that information. The Inspector General has said that he's seen measurable improvement over the time that he did this. He completed the round that we had requested in February when we managed the transition to federal oversight of the existing contracts. This is something that we set in motion ourselves, and we have welcomed the results; it is an important tool that we're using to make the system stronger and better.

How else are we using tools to manage this massive deployment? We have five or so big procurements that are underway right now that I think are transformational.

Security, Screening, and Training.
First, we have hired a company to manage the intake of applications for federal security directors, and another to manage the intake of applications for the thousands and thousands of screeners that have to be deployed in 429 separate airports around the country. For both of these processes, we are managing the input entirely on-line, using the Internet to gather information and other tools to drive people to the Internet, such as job fairs and kiosks in airports, to make it possible to manage this effectively and efficiently in a cost-effective but useful manner.

We are also about to announce a procurement that will involve a third party coming in to help us train these screeners, and to do so systematically using processes and curricula designed by the Department. We'll have individuals at the Transportation Security Administration to hire, and then we will partner with some outside resources to do training in local community colleges, high schools, hotels, airports, meeting rooms, wherever we need to, all around the country as we bring these people in and train them.

Then, when they have 40 hours of rigorous training in the school, they will go out to the real world and have 60 hours of oversight. During that period, we'll test, probe, and evaluate them. They will have to be certified on each of the pieces of equipment that they will operate and maintain. These are five times greater requirements than we have previously had for the workforce in the airport environment.

The Single Integrator Concept.
Next, we are using the concept of a single integrator to bring the equipment and the training for the equipment operators that we're going to hire for the explosive detection systems that we'll be deploying around the country. We have undertaken contracts with the two currently certified firms that make this equipment and the explosives detection system, or EDS, machines. We have also licensed the intellectual property so that we can assign that intellectual property license to a single integrator, and that integrator will in turn build equipment and also manage the production, delivery, training, and maintenance of the equipment that the other manufacturers will contribute to this puzzle.

If we took all of the capacity of both of the existing firms that manufacture explosive detection systems, collectively, they don't have enough capacity to build what we need this year. So the integrator will help bridge that gap but also improve the product that we're trying to deliver, make it more effective and make it more efficient.

That is a cornerstone component of it: a performance-based, incentive-laden contract to improve efficiency and performance. I think that this will be an indispensable portion of our success this year, and we'll be working in close partnership with them and the other contracts that I've just described.

Meeting the Engineering Challenge.
Then we will have another set of arms and legs that we are trying to leverage from the outside world to help us plan for how you manage this single process and then customize it at each location. We're sending engineers out to do floor loading analysis of how we put this equipment into place. We are sending people who will get local construction permits.

They come with a Gant Chart that says if this is the day in August that we are going to stand up the Transportation Security Administration with a full federal workforce, what date in June do we have to start placing advertisements for employees? What date do we do the background checks? What date do we get the construction permits to move the equipment about? What date do we need to bring the deployment team in to begin training these folks?

This is a significant engineering challenge, to manage it at hundreds of places simultaneously, and we're using proven tools for large project management to measure and to pace this work.


There's been a little bit of frustration at the pace of movement in the Department of Transportation, I think naturally, because we've been using the first quarter of the year to plan and the second, third, and fourth quarters of the year to execute. So there's been a lot of analytical work undertaken that will begin to show its fruit in the coming months. I'll give you one example.

Process Management.
We created at Baltimore's airport, BWI, a laboratory to test process management. So far, we've been working very intently in one pier, Pier C, on how to move people through with better security and more efficiency. We have gotten a 23 percent increase in the per-person efficiency by tweaking not one thing or two things, but 22 things or 44 things.

There are little changes which collectively have yielded a capacity to move in the same space, and with essentially the same workers, 500 people an hour moving to 700 people an hour through the same number of machines. We think that we can make efficiency improvements while we are making tangible security improvements as well.

Computer Assisted Passenger Screening.
In addition, we are working on a second generation of software tools that will help us more effectively narrow the focus for who needs additional scrutiny in our airport environment. This is the so-called CAPS, or computer assisted passenger screening, program that we currently run, and we will be testing a new generation of CAPS technology so that we don't have to see grandmothers and infants being scrutinized as we currently do randomly--and quite appropriately so, because the randomness is itself a core component of the strategy that we have.

So we think that we can make significant improvements there which will make for a meaningful improvement in the way that we do business in airports.


There are a lot of moving parts here, and there is much work to be done. This is just a snapshot of the principles that undergird our approach to this issue; to our commitment to do it with a sense of urgency; to our commitment to world-class security and customer service being made to work in balance both equally well; and to leverage a spirit of innovation.

This is not the way the government does business. We have been given broad authority by the Congress to waive procurement, work rules, employment rules, and to get the job done. We are going to seize all of those tools, all of that flexibility, and we'll get the job done.

There will be bumps, there will be complaints, there will be griping and moaning. But as Secretary Mineta has said, in this era, patience is a form of patriotism. We're going to need folks' patience, but we'll also accept and welcome and encourage their criticism, constructive or otherwise, to help us focus on what we have to get done.

One simple question: What works? Nothing else makes a difference. What works? That's what we need to know, and that's what we need to follow.

The Honorable Michael P. Jackson is U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation.


The Michael P. Jackson