A Behind the Scenes Look at TSA’s Ops Center

A Behind the Scenes Look at TSA’s Ops Center

Have you ever wondered what happens when someone on the ‘No-Fly’ List attempts to board an aircraft, when a plane is diverted or an aircraft loses communications with the ground? While each situation is different and requires a distinct response, TSA’s Operations Center, also called the Freedom Center, is fully involved in all scenarios.

Since 2003, this facility has served as the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) coordination center during security incidents and operations. Every facet of TSA operations has a presence. Decisions are made and transmitted to the field in real time. TSA’s Office of Intelligence can notify the Freedom Center about developing situations. The Federal Air Marshal Service Mission Operations Center can be alerted and provide valuable feedback and guidance. Decisions can be made and transmitted to the field in real time.

These operational capabilities enable TSA and other federal agencies to quickly respond to security incidents. If, for example, an aviation incident occurs, TSA must work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to manage its developments.

The operations center plays a critical role in more than just in-flight and checkpoint security incidents; it coordinates operations for every mode of transportation around the country. It was also involved in the Department of Homeland Security’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

TSA officials won’t disclose the location of the facility that contains a bank of monitors that tracks air traffic, including commercial transports, cargo aircraft and general aviation. Personnel instantly know which jetliners have federal air marshals and armed federal flight deck officers on board. The aviation security nerve center also keeps track of security violations 24/7 at the nation’s more than 450 airports. Incidents involving firearms violations, bomb threats, suspicious passengers and airport evacuations are tracked by computer. Airborne medical emergencies are also monitored by personnel at the Freedom Center.

TSA’s operations center is vital to the federal security mission and allows TSA to seamlessly interweave its layers of security to protect the nation’s transportation network.

Workers at the facility have several visible reminders of their mission. On display are a twisted steel beam from the World Trade Center, a piece of United Flight 93’s wreckage and a bit of wall from the Pentagon.

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