Federal contracts to plan the stepped-up federal security mandated for the nation's airports have been awarded to teams led by Fluor Corp., Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. The contracts, announced by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation's Transportation Security Administration on April 25, call for each team to submit a plan and a timetable for federalizing screening of airport passengers and luggage.

DOT's Magaw (Photo courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Transportation)

TSA's major tasks include shifting to federal screeners from a private workforce and installing new baggage-scanning machines at 429 major U.S. airports.

John Magaw, DOT's Under Secretary for Security, says, "There is considerable complexity to our task of converting the current screening workforce from private companies to federal operations while simultaneously upgrading security operations and installing explosive detection equipment for checked baggage."

TSA faces tight deadlines: Under an aviation bill signed last fall, the agency has until Nov. 19 of this year to have federal screeners and law enforcement personnel at the 429 airports. The same law says screening for checked bags must be in place by Dec. 31.

The contract is the first of two phases, says Rebecca Trexler, a TSA spokesperson. The three teams will divide a total of $8.9 million. The amount each team will get varies and is based on the bids they submitted, she says, but DOT wasn't releasing the exact amounts for each team.

"It's really a planning contract," says Lori Serrato, a Fluor spokesperson. "and the three entities chosen have strong backgrounds in logistics and planning." In addition, Serrato says, the three have "very strong backgrounds in building airports, which should help a lot with the logistics and the planning."

TSA's Trexler says the teams will submit master plans and schedules for implementing the security changes at each airport. She says the job involves "everything from where to put the explosive-detection equipment to possibly redesigning the passenger checkpoints."

In phase two, Trexler says, TSA will decide which plan or portions of plans are the best and then award a contract "to one or more companies" to implement the blueprint.