Thursday, May 21, 2009

Explosive Trace Detection

By now, I’m sure most of you have heard about or seen firsthand pieces of TSA security equipment affectionately referred to as “puffers.” Officially known as Explosive Trace Portals (ETPs), passengers enter the machine stationed at the security checkpoint before proceeding through the metal detector. Several “puffs” of air are released in an effort to shake loose trace explosive particles on the passenger. Over the years, TSA has determined that trace portals do not meet the requirements for operational suitability due to frequent maintenance issues. TSA also determined that more reliable and effective screening technologies have become available since ETPs were first introduced. For these reasons, TSA has decided to phase out this technology.

ETPs were first deployed to airports in a pilot capacity in June 2004. At the program’s peak, 94 of the 207 units originally procured by TSA were deployed to 37 airports. Over the years, TSA gathered performance data on several variations of the technology.

As the ETP pilot progressed, it became increasingly apparent that tweaks and fixes were unable to resolve ETP maintenance issues caused by dirt and humidity common to any airport environment. In the summer of 2008, TSA made the decision to begin phasing out ETP technology.

All things said and done, TSA spent approximately $29.6 million on explosive trace portals. Of this, approximately $6.2 million was spent on maintenance on the 94 deployed units. Currently, there are 33 ETPs deployed to 15 airports. ETPs that are still in use at airports continue to support a dynamic layered screening approach.

Earlier this year, TSA opened a brand new testing facility called the TSA Systems Integration Facility (TSIF). At this facility, TSA tests a variety of security screening technologies in simulated airport environments. This facility will allow TSA to more effectively measure operational suitability prior to deployment.

Blogger Paul

EoS Blog Team