Emergence Alumna Making a Difference: Preventing Misuse of Airport Employee IDs

Transportation Security Administration manager and CHDS Emergence alumna Nadira Foo

Having experienced the “insider threat” dangers of misusing airport employee identification in secured areas of an airport to compromise security for years, Transportation Security Administration manager Nadira Foo finally saw an opportunity to do something about the issue. 

Through the Center for Homeland Defense and Security Emergence program, Foo (Emergence cohort 2002) made improving verification of airport employee IDs the focus of her Emergence change initiative. 

Entitled “How To Prevent Misuse of Employee Identification,” Foo’s Emergence change initiative was aimed at adding biometric technology such as facial recognition and fingerprints to verify airport employee IDs. 

Currently stationed at Orlando, FL International Airport, which she noted is a major tourism destination because of Disney World and other attractions, Foo said she had realized the need for enhanced airport employee IDs years ago when she worked at JFK International Airport in New York six years ago. 

At that busy airport, Foo said there had been a rash of cases of employees using fellow employees’ IDs because they said they had forgotten their ID, which she said compromised airport security as a result of a faulty system. 

She said the current system of using photos to identify employees is problematic because they can change the ID and their appearance. 

Foo said while biometric technology is “not 100 percent” effective, it is a considerably upgrade from simple photo ID use, and noted that other airports have already started trying the technology. 

Foo’s Emergence action plan included incident summaries, the benefits of biometrics use to verify employee ID, and different kinds of tools available to use biometric technology for that purpose.  

While Foo said she encountered some pushback from her leadership, including a federal security director and a deputy director, she said she was offered “constructive feedback” and her leadership was “overall well receptive” of her Emergence change initiative.  

However, Foo said she was told that funding for her proposal was an issue, and she acknowledged that such a change would be costly—running into the millions of dollars—and that she needed to do a better job of proving that the current system is “broken” and worth the investment. 

Nevertheless, Foo said she was told that if there is eventually an opportunity for a more limited and less expensive pilot project using portable employee ID screens to help implement her Emergence change initiative that it would “be a go.”  

Foo acknowledged her Emergence change initiative was challenging and complex, and said she considered changing it but ultimately decided to pursue it. 

Meanwhile, Foo said she is also planning to pursue another change initiative to be determined, but didn’t share any details. 

Foo, who has been promoted to transportation security manager since her acceptance into the CHDS Emergence program, said her participation in the program has also allowed her to “gain a tremendous amount of knowledge on building action plans and implementing change initiatives, and she has “learned many lessons that I am able to share with my team.”

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment | hissvora@nps.edu, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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