TSA moves forward with biometric ID card programs

The Transportation Security Administration is seeking help in implementing two of its biometric ID card programs?one for pre-screened airport passengers and another for transportation workers.

In a request for information posted Dec. 15, TSA said it is seeking ideas on a business model for Registered Traveler, a voluntary program in which pre-screened airline passengers are allowed to bypass some of the security procedures at U.S. airports. Travelers register in advance to undergo the screenings, enroll their biometric data in the system and receive a credential to verify their identity.

TSA ended its Registered Traveler pilot program Sept. 30 at airports in Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Washington. A privately operated version of the program is still in operation at Orlando International airport and is being sponsored by Verified Identity Pass Inc. of New York, Lockheed Martin Corp. and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

TSA officials said in November that Registered Traveler will roll out nationwide in 2006.

A key issue for the implementation is ensuring interoperability among airports using Registered Traveler. Currently, the pilot programs are not interoperable with each other, and travelers cannot take advantage of the expedited passage except at their home airport.

Other guidelines for the business model listed in the RFI include creating a public-private partnership with clear revenue allocation guidelines; the collection of 10 fingerprints and two iris images at enrollment; utilizing smart cards to verify identities; rapidly rolling out the program; sustaining the program through user fees; and including "an identity authentication and verification element to link the security threat assessment to the correct individual through the biometric."

TSA also released a request for support services Dec. 15 to assist the agency with implementation of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program.

The company that provides the support services will not be allowed to participate in the TWIC competition due to conflict of interest. The support contract will be for three to four consultants for a base year and four option years.

The services will be provided in areas of biometric authentication, smart card solutions, physical and logical access, and public key infrastructure, among others.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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