Airport Screening Technology Market to Shrink, Analyst Says

By Stew Magnuson

The Transportation Security Administration has been on a buying binge since 9/11, but the good days for airport screening technology vendors may be winding down, a Frost & Sullivan report said.

John Hernandez, the author of the report, said TSA fielded its various explosive detection scanners in a “knee-jerk” fashion.

“Most of this technology was rushed without any procurement oversight or risk management,” he told National Defense.

Obligated funds through government contracts for U.S. airport screening technologies amounted to an estimated $437.1 million in fiscal year 2011, the report said. Funding of U.S. airport screening systems will progressively decline until fiscal year 2015 as TSA completes its allocation of systems to the nation’s airports.

The agency’s mismanagement of the procurement, storage and deployment of screening technologies will weigh against it for future funding, he added.

One factor is the low regard Congress has for the agency, Hernandez said. A joint Transportation and Infrastructure and the Government Reform and Oversight Committees investigation accused TSA of “wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars by inefficiently deploying screening equipment and technology to commercial airports.”

Investigators found approximately 5,700 pieces of security equipment in storage.  They estimated that the non-utilized equipment had a purchase value of $184 million, in addition to the $3.5 million annual cost to lease and manage a warehouse.

The backscatter technology that was rushed into the field after the so-called Christmas Day bomb plot in 2009 didn’t go through stringent tests for health effects. They are still banned in the European Union, he noted. Similarly, the TSA ordered new baggage screening equipment before all the required tests could be conducted. They also sit in warehouses being stored at taxpayer expense, he said.

Most money will be spent in the coming years on maintaining the glut of equipment already fielded.

“However, 2016 should see some increases as aging systems will need to be replaced and improved technology will outweigh the cost of significant upgrades,” a summary of the report said.

Service contracts will dominate the U.S. screening technologies market for the next few years as upgrades, training and maintenance requirements become more necessary to extend the systems’ endurance, he said.

Future requirements will call for systems that are smaller, versatile — equipment that can stand-alone or in-line configurations — and can speed up throughput.

“TSA bureaucracy is large and improvident adding more difficulty to an already troubled budget process. A lack of faith in TSA procedures and government reports of mismanagement is prompting a move towards the privatization of screening,” the report concluded.

Topics: Homeland Security, Air Transportation

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