As of April 27, 2023, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued a directive to airports of a certain size that requires them to start conducting random employee screening by September 2023. The term “random” as defined by different airports and airlines resulted in various forms of inspection program implementations—from random selection of access portals to random employees and bags being selected for inspection, or various combinations of both. Faith Group completed a report about how the possibility of an insider threat is a growing concern among airports and airlines in the PARAS Employee Inspections Synthesis Report.
Why Employee Screening Matters
The importance of this directive is to mitigate the insider threat posed by any employee entering the secure side of an airport. Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has been conducting employee screening for nearly 100% of all employees. At AAAE Annual during the Insider Threat session, the Airport noted that so far in 2023, while screening 98%/99% of the employee population, five firearms have been detected at the employee screening checkpoint. Before employee screening was implemented these firearms would have entered the secure side unnoticed and unquestioned. The alarming reality is that employees are the worst kind of threat because they know the environment, people, processes, systems, and vulnerabilities of an airport, so screening of this population is proving critical to providing a safe & secure environment.
How This Affects New Terminals
At the AAAE Annual conference, representatives from TSA discussed that while some of the airports they operate in might have checkpoint capacity to conduct the random employee screenings, many do not, and TSA definitely does not have capacity to conduct 100% employee screening through the checkpoint. As a result, the TSA directive is focused on airports owning the responsibility until a long-term solution is developed. This means that airports must figure out how screening policies, procedures and technology solutions, that meet the intent of the current directive, with an eye toward expansion to 100%, once that becomes a requirement.
As a result of this directive, all new terminal projects should proactively include employee screening facilities or, at the very least, room for them in the future. The TSA has estimated approximately $75,000 in project costs to the airport; however, as revealed during discussions with the TSA and CBP at AAAE Annual, some airports’ initial estimates have stretched well beyond that amount (one airport’s figure was upwards of $500,000). The TSA encourages airports to reach out to their Federal Security Director (FSD) and vet their costs through them to ensure that they are adequately captured.
Employee Screening Challenges
Faith Varwig recently moderated a session at the ACI Airports@Work conference discussing airport employee screening. During this session speakers from DFW, SEATAC, Delta Airlines, and Allied Universal (company that staffs the screening facilities), discussed a number of challenges including:
- Limited physical space to conduct screening
- Managing peak periods/shift changes
- Consolidation of entry points into a single or few locations
- Developing a prohibited items list that is workable for airline crews, airport employees, and maintenance staff
- Training staff to on what they can and can’t bring through the check point
- Management of escorts
- Annual cost of operation
As noted at AAAE Annual in the Insider Threat session, SEA has found success in using operational data to inform staffing decisions. They have analyzed when their peak times are for employees entering the airport and have staff on-hand during those times. When they experience down-time, some of those staff shift over to other areas of the airport to do security checks.
Potential Technology Solutions
Since all airports operate differently, solutions will vary from airport to airport, but the basic concept is the same; all employees moving from Public to Secure must go through some kind of screening. Some solutions can include:
- Portable/Mobile Verification Card Reader
- Biometric and CCTV Enhancements
- Randomizer Tablets
- Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT)
- Explosive Trace Detection (ETD)
- Hand Wands
Portable/Mobile Verification Card/Biometric Readers
This mode of screening allow airports to validate the status of cardholders randomly during Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) Inspections (including ramp locations). Because it is portable, employee badges can be validated at non-Access Control Systems gate locations and can be deployed at Transportation Document Checker (TDC) locations/lanes designated to confirm the employee’s active status.
Biometric and Video Surveillance Enhancements
Airports report implementation of multiple factor authentication readers and innovative video surveillance programs used in conjunction with their overall employee inspection program. Card readers with the capability of 3 factor authentication can be programmed differently depending on the location of the access door which allows increased levels of identity validation based on security boundary classifications.
Using a portable device such as a tablet with a randomization program to select employees and/or their goods/bags for inspections, allows for a fair and equitable method for making inspection selections in conjunction with the airport’s overall employee inspection program. It can aid in the employees’ acceptance of the program since it ensures that selections are truly random. In this way, 100% of employees present themselves for inspection, and the randomizer makes the selection and tracks the number of individuals being inspected. This is a highly suitable option for all airports, however, there is a capital improvement investment in deploying the solution and training the inspection force.
We Are Here To Help
This is the first phase of what will be the eventual requirement for all airports to conduct employee screening. Faith Group can help airports understand the requirements, create concept of operations and design approach, evaluate options, and explore probable costs for both capital and O&M. If you have questions, or would like more information regarding the topic, please contact Faith Varwig, Dave Fleet or Joe Fallon.