TSA comes under fire for $1.4 million app to manage lines

The Transportation Security Administration took heat from lawmakers on Wednesday for a $1.4 million contract that included the purchase of a randomizer app that chooses left or right.

During a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, senators criticized the agency for buying the iPad app, which randomly chooses whether travelers go left or right in certain PreCheck lanes to ensure passengers can’t avoid random checks.

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said the agency no longer uses the app, because it has ended the program that pulls low-risk passengers from regular lines and funnels them through PreCheck.

“Was that … an example where we maybe shouldn’t have purchased that?” asked Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) “Seems like a waste of dollars to me.”

“There was a lot more involved in that contract,” Neffenger said.

“The actual app cost significantly less, somewhere in the thousands. Nonetheless, it is not an app we need anymore,” he added.

According to the technology website Geek, the app cost $336,000, a figured released after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by developer Kevin Burke. The total cost of the project, awarded to IBM, was $1.4 million.

But a more detailed cost breakdown was not provided in the FOIA documents, according to Geek. The $336,000 figure could also include the price of the iPads.

Still, lawmakers were not pleased with the report and called for greater oversight and transparency.

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller pressed Neffenger, who has been in the role for nine months, on what the agency is doing to enact oversight reforms and regain the public’s trust.

“One of the first things I did was to look at our acquisition program,” Neffenger said. “We’re working very hard on improving our oversight and controls, looking across every contract we have to ensure that the contract is appropriate and that the money is going to what we think it is.”

Tags Dean Heller Kelly Ayotte

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