The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is in the process of creating positions for both a chief technology officer (CTO) and a chief data officer (CDO), a top TSA official shared today at the Digital Transformation Summit in Reston, Va., organized by MeriTalk and ACT-IAC.

“On my side right now at TSA, we don’t have a CTO or a CDO,” the agency’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) Yemi Oshinnaiye said during his keynote speech on Feb. 22. “I’m creating them because that’s something we need.”

Oshinnaiye indicated that both the CTO and CDO positions are critical to work alongside a CIO to further digital transformation. Collaboration, he said, is the key.

“We have to get better at connecting fluidly so we can get to the place we call transformation,” Oshinnaiye said.

Collaboration should not only occur among those who hold top-tier leadership positions, the TSA official said, because transformation also happens when agencies partner with industry.

“Transformation is about the culture change. It’s about a change in the way we look at things,” Oshinnaiye said.

One way TSA is changing the way it looks at things is through the agency’s Innovation Task Force (ITF). Established in 2016, the ITF looks to industry for solutions to problems – like using artificial intelligence to shorten long lines at airports, Oshinnaiye said.

“You can go on to … and you can sign up and help us. We can collaborate,” the CIO said. “[TSA] is saying, ‘tell me your idea, we’ll test it out and pilot it, and if it works, we’ll see where we can take it.’”

Oshinnaiye emphasized that agencies need people – and specifically leaders – who will go against the grain to implement systematic change.

For example, Oshinnaiye said that TSA’s chief innovation officer has spent several weeks traveling to airports to identify areas in need of transformation and improvement. The leader’s biggest finding? TSA’s transportation security officers are forced to take on a large load of work.

“[We are] super charged to figure out what are the things we can do technologically to help that job be better and keep us safe.”

The journey of transformation, Oshinnaiye said, “is collaboration first, understanding second, but never forget your why, and the catalyst that brings you there.”

Read More About
More Topics
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.