Feds to evaluate benefits of Registered Traveler program

The Transportation Security Administration ended its government-funded Registered Traveler pilot program Friday, and now will focus on evaluating its results to determine the best means for a nationwide rollout.

Test phases at airports in Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Washington are winding down because the program's $22 million in funding has ended, said Darrin Kayser, a TSA spokesman. The Registered Traveler kiosks at the five airports will be dismantled, he added.

TSA started the Registered Traveler pilot program about 15 months ago to speed the security screening process at selected airports. The agency enrolled nearly 10,000 travelers at the five airports during the pilot phase, Kayser said.

The pilot's results will determine future applications of the Registered Traveler program at other airports nationwide. TSA will examine costs, security and customer service data collected at the project sites, Kayser said.

TSA also will continue to compare the results of its five test sites to a similar privately run pilot program at Orlando International Airport, he added.

Verified Identity Pass Inc. of New York, Lockheed Martin Corp. and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority are operating their own of the Registered Traveler program at Orlando. The parties signed a memorandum of understating with TSA to run the program until January 2006, with an option to extend it 180 days, Kayser said.

Targeted mainly at frequent business travelers, the program records and digitally stores travelers' fingerprints and iris scans for identification. Fliers pay an annual fee of $79.95 for enrollment and background checks.

Although TSA is not funding the project, the agency conducts the background checks.

"We're going to continue to review the data collected during the pilot and compare that to what we've learned in Orlando and decide the next steps from there," Kayser said. He could not give a specific time frame for TSA to complete its review.

The Orlando program has operated since June and is reported to have enrolled more than 9,000 travelers, said Fiona D'Arcy, director of communications and marketing at Daon Inc. The Herndon, Va., company develops identity management software for authentication systems, such as Registered Traveler, and has provided the core biometric technology for the Orlando program.

Some organizations want Registered Traveler to be set up nationwide, including the National Business Travel Association, which represents corporate travel managers and travel service providers in the United States.

Another organization, the American Association of Airport Executives, has joined with airports and vendors to form a Registered Traveler Interoperability Consortium. The group wants to establish common business rules and technical standards for an interoperable and vendor-neutral national Registered Traveler program.

TSA's pilot program was not interoperable in that passengers enrolled at one of the participating airports could not use the other Registered Traveler kiosks at selected airports for identity verification.

"Interoperability is going to be a key component of the final program," Kayser said. "As we evaluate [Registered Traveler], we're going to be looking at the program in the context of what's best for the entire aviation system."

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