The Transportation Security Administration uses a “Randomizer” iPad app to direct traffic in its pre-check lanes, with a TSA worker deciding which passengers get searched and which get to avoid the hassle by tapping the screen.
Geek.com describes the style of random left or right app as “one of the first things” coders learn because “it’s an incredibly simple program to make.” But as with all things government, simple doesn’t equal inexpensive.
Developer Kevin Burke submitted a Freedom of Information request to the TSA to find out how much the incredibly simple app cost the government, and soon realized IBM was awarded a $1.4 million contract in 2013 for the randomizer project.
The development cost alone totaled $336,413.59, Burke wrote in a post on his personal website.
“Unfortunately we don’t know everything the TSA got for that $1.4 million. They might have gotten the iPad app; they might have gotten iPads, or work on multiple different apps, including the TSA Randomizer,” he wrote. “We only know it’s associated with the TSA Randomizer based on the FOIA request that returned this document.”
Public records posted to USAspending.gov confirm the $1.4 million total paid to IBM through nine transactions between September 2013 and February 2015.
Geek columnist Matthew Humphries weighed in on the absurdly expensive app.
“I understand that software used for security checks at airports must be rigorously tested and reviewed, but I have a hard time believing such checks cost $1.4 million,” Humphries wrote. “In fact, I’m sure there’s many reputable developers out there who’d supply the TSA with the same app for a few thousand dollars.”
The criticism comes as airports across the country are publicly denouncing the TSA’s slow-moving security checkpoints, USA Today reports.
Miguel Southwell, general manager of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, sent a letter to the TSA in February complaining about “30 to 60 minute backups becoming more common” and constant complaints from passengers about missing flights.
The airport “struggled with TSA staffing shortfalls in 2015,” Southwell wrote, “and the airport is dreading the outcome of summer 2016.”
“This morning as I write this letter, wait times of up to 52 minutes were experienced between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. This is unacceptable as reflected in the customer surveys of our hub carrier Delta Air Lines,” Southwell wrote Feb. 12.
USA Today pointed out that the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, and carriers at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport have also publicly aired grievances with the TSA.
Jeffrey Hamiel, who runs the Minneapolis airport, noted in a letter to TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger that passenger volume at the airport is up 10 percent since 2011, while TSA staff has declined by 15 percent, the Associated Press reports.
“Those diverging trend lines – increasing passenger levels and declining numbers of federal screeners – are a recipe for unacceptable customer service,” he wrote. “We have reached that point at (the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport).”
Leave a Comment
COMMENTS POLICY: We have no tolerance for messages of violence, racism, vulgarity, obscenity or other such discourteous behavior. Thank you for contributing to a respectful and useful online dialogue.