Transforming Problem-Solving Within the TSA

When the Transportation Security Administration needed a way to accelerate problem-solving, they turned to BMNT for help. The result was the first-ever Innovation Doctrine in federal government.

The Challenge

Created in the aftermath of 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a ubiquitous site in airports today. Its systems and procedures are designed to keep passengers safe in the nation’s airports and throughout major transportation systems. With constantly changing technology and threat levels, the TSA needs to be flexible and innovative.  The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted air travel, but it reinforced TSA’s need to innovate to maintain security. Solutions and adjustments needed to happen fast. Adherence to existing policies and procedures wasn’t going to get the job done.

The TSA wanted a new approach – something to accelerate problem-solving and transform the agency, giving personnel the freedom to suggest and test innovations that would improve efficiencies for frontline security officers, as well as improve the passenger experience. The effort needed to be guided by a common framework and language so the 60,000 employees spread throughout the TSA would understand how to innovate, not just restate what needed to be done.

Photo credit: "SpiritofAmerica -"

The Resolution

TSA Administrator David Pekoske appointed Chief Innovation Officer, Dan McCoy, to lead the effort. McCoy then turned to BMNT. Together, we created the TSA Innovation Doctrine, the first of its kind in the federal government – a living document that guides the actions of TSA staff without dictating how those actions must be taken.

The Doctrine includes an enterprise-level system for innovation that is repeatable and scalable to solve problems throughout the agency. The Innovation Pipeline® provides a systematic approach to generate a steady flow of actionable and mission-focused ideas for testing and implementation.

The Doctrine also commits principles like small bets – allowing staff to identify problems and test low-risk, scalable solutions to determine what works best. This leads to rapid implementation, allowing TSA to quickly scale viable ideas to address the constantly changing threat landscape.

Finally, TSA is growing ecosystems of interconnected networks including public and private industry and organizations to co-evolve capabilities around a shared set of technologies and principles. 

The Innovation Doctrine is not just a license to re-imagine and solve problems as they arise, it is a permission slip to fail fast, to move closer to genuine solutions.


Real-world applications quickly materialized. In 2022, TSA staff discovered 6,542 firearms during routine screenings. Most of those firearms were loaded, creating a serious threat to TSA officers, airport workers and passengers. When a firearm is found, checkpoints must close, lines get longer, and passengers are delayed. In 2023, TSA’s new Launchpad team used BMNT’s sprint model to address the issue. 

The team pulled in industry and subject matter experts and within 90 days the team developed two minimum viable products (MVPs) and one prototype, which is now being tested at Dallas Fort Worth airport by the local LIFT Cell.

Other innovation efforts are also underway, thanks to the TSA Innovation Doctrine: