The TSA spent $1.4M on an app to tell it who gets a random search


We don’t know what the full $1.4 million full award was for. The actual payment for the app was $336K the rest could be any number of things. A large portion is probably device and ongoing support costs. Or it could have been a completely different thing.

Contract for the app itself:


There’s an RPG calculator app that I got back in my first flush of enthusiasm for my iPad, that will roll in any random integer range you like (as well as the regular D&D types): d2, d13, d241*3+15, whatever. Only £1.49 in UK money, maybe $1.99 in the US store.


Just a thought—maybe it’s not as simple as “if random() < P { letTheManGoThrough() }.”

They could have designed to guarantee a particular ratio of screened to non-screened passengers—which would require a server coordinating between client applications.

They could have made the ratio change depending on expected traffic flow, or even real-time traffic flow.

Of course, it seems unlikely that they’d be that savvy, but still ban nail clippers. And the TSA won’t tell us, because terrorism.


Oooh - and it could play a snippet from this song…


Yeah it turns out most of the $1.4M went to licensing fees.


How about a computer powered by ants?

It wouldn’t be the first time, after all.


Of course they’re using the world’s most expensive touch platform, that’s just good value!

Besides most of the budget is probably eaten up by in-app purchases :wink:


For some reason they overlooked my bid at less than half the cost, built on cutting-edge Dyce technology


What, eeny meeny miny moe wasn’t available?


No, because the TSA’s previous version of “eeny meeny miny moe” always seemed to pick brown people. Shouldn’t need an app not to do that, but they did.


Thank you for the clarification kind Sir or Madam.


Clearly the problem is that there are just too many brown people named Moe.


As someone who’s visibly Jewish, having some blueshirt at the head of a TSA line look at me and my family, consult his ipad, and then tell us to go to the right or the left doesn’t exactly fill me with dread, but it definitely pushes my “cultural cluelessness” button.


Clicking through yields some further details:

1.4mm is basically the cost of the contract. 336k per 6 month period, all T&E billables.

Meaning, vastly less than 1.4mm could have been spent.

Although, having been a contract engineer, I do know that contracting companies have ways of burning through T&E. Lots of documentation gets produced to pad the perceived value delivered.


IBM will make their money on the time and materials contract for fixing the bugs.


Then again, we demand a lot of documentation. Would it be nice if that app was compatible with everything? Want to trust IBM, or would it be good to see proof? Do we want proof the vendor is actually producing a product, and not just running off with the money? Do we want them to hire union, women, minorities? All of that requires documentation.

The alternative is a government that just turns a blind eye.


Glad to see that Randall’s hit the big payday!


Because flipping a coin at the top and bottom of the hour required entrusting TSA employees with a coin.


All valid points, and completely not considered in typical contract documents.

I spent no small amount of time producing design and “best practice” docs.

As for compatibility, for 336k for two quarters of development work, it better be.


But the real question is: Does it include in-app purchases?