Inside the room that can get you through TSA faster (Photos)

TSA's new Airport Operations Center enables real-time monitoring of security checkpoints at 20 of the busiest airports, says Victoria Newhouse, deputy assistant administrator, Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement,  (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
TSA’s new Airport Operations Center enables real-time monitoring of security checkpoints at 20 of the busiest airports, says Victoria Newhouse, deputy assistant administrator, Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Created in May, the Airport Operations Center, located in TSA headquarters in Pentagon City, enables supervisors to monitor how many security screening lines are open at each airport, and know quickly if lines are backing up to deal with the situation before it becomes a serious problem.

In a daily morning conference call, TSA deputy assistant administrator Victoria Newhouse is briefed by security, operations, and airlines supervisors at each of the 20 busiest airports.

During a recent visit to TSA’s Airport Operations Center, new software notified supervisors of sizable delays in the security screening lines at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. A “hot spot” alert pops up on large screens in the AOC.

A phone call is quickly made to the airport, to determine why the software is indicating a delay.

Before May, each airport gathered and submitted its delay information to TSA on a daily basis. For the first time, with the new operations center, supervisors in the Pentagon City have an overview of the entire system, and can take action to solve problems.

Airport Operations Center manager Janet McCarthy is briefed on the situation in Houston, and told the problem had been identified, and was being remedied.

In some cases mechanical breakdowns cause security delays. Supervisors in the AOC can assign priority levels, based on current and anticipated volume at the particular airport.

The TSA Airports Operations Center, located in the agency’s Pentagon City headquarters, makes it possible to plan for and react in real time, to situations at security checkpoints of the country’s 20 busiest airports, including Reagan National, Dulles, and BWI Marshall.

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TSA's new Airport Operations Center enables real-time monitoring of security checkpoints at 20 of the busiest airports, says Victoria Newhouse, deputy assistant administrator, Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement,  (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

ARLINGTON, Va. — For the first time, the Transportation Security Administration can monitor, in real time, the operations at 20 of the busiest U.S. airports, with the goal of identifying potential problems before they negatively affect the system.

In May, the agency created an Airports Operations Center inside its Pentagon City headquarters.

The center is equipped with large screens and speedy, configurable software and manned by supervisors of the agency’s various departments. The TSA can see how many security checkpoint lines are open at each of the airports and know if delays are forming, and why.

When the AOC is notified of delays at a particular airport, a phone call can be made to help determine whether a mechanical breakdown, or staffing shortage, or potential security issue is causing the slowdown.

In the past, each airport collected its own screening line data and submitted it to the TSA in a daily report.

Now, a daily morning conference call enables TSA supervisors to hear status reports and predictions for the day to come from security, operations, and airline representatives from each airport.

The agency says its ability to notice and deal with problems while they are still happening is making the process more efficient for the TSA and more pleasant for passengers.

Click through the gallery for a behind-the-scene look. 

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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