TSA is requesting $104M to procure 126 checkpoint CT systems in FY22
(source: US TSA FY22 Budget Overview)
On average, TSA is planning to spend approximately $829K for every checkpoint CT system it procures in FY22. That’s a lot of money, considering that the legacy X-ray systems currently at US airports cost (we estimate) well under $100K per system.
What accounts for the big cost differential?
- Better detection. CT technology provides far better threat detection and lower false alarms than current X-Ray systems, which means that not only should security improve, but passengers should be able to keep electronics and liquids in their carry-on bags. But that improved performance comes due to more expensive sensors and software.
- Higher deployment costs. A checkpoint CT system is bigger, heavier, and consumes more power than a traditional checkpoint X-Ray.
- Automated Screening Lanes (ASLs). In the case of the “full-size” configuration for checkpoint CT, TSA is also procuring an automated screening lane (ASL) which supports automated tray return, a streamlined divestment and recomposition process, and automated diversion of bags that alarm. We estimate that these “full configuration” ASLs can cost as much or more than the checkpoint CT system itself.
What do these plans and costs mean for airports outside the US?
Two predictions. First, the CT vendor(s) that TSA procures from will become a de facto leader in the checkpoint CT market worldwide because the TSA “stamp of approval” carries enormous influence in Latin America, the Gulf region and parts of Asia.
Second, whatever TSA actually pays for these systems — and keep in mind the numbers in the TSA budget are estimates — will likely become the ceiling, not the floor for checkpoint CT pricing. The reason? European airports (a big market for checkpoint CT) are under ferocious economic pressure and will try to make tenders as competitive as possible. And Nuctech, which makes a checkpoint CT, but which did not compete for the TSA procurement, will undoubtedly participate in these tenders.