House bill aims to improve airport biometrics

The Homeland Security Department would be required to consult with industry executives on biometric identification for airport security under newly proposed legislation.

The bill, which was introduced May 7 by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), came less than a week after the Transportation Security Administration was to begin tests to screen airport employees at selected airports.

The tests include biometric identification of employees at two airports. Several airport authorities also recently formed a consortium to make plans for biometric ID cards.

Under Thompson's legislation, the goal is to ensure there is a comprehensive plan in place before airports begin using biometric ID systems, Thompson said in a news release.

"This is not about re-inventing the wheel or putting a stop to any good work at TSA ? it is about helping us build upon smart, efficient and effective airport security measures needed to secure Americans and protect a vital industry to our economy and resiliency," he said.

The bill requires that:
  • TSA study existing and proposed industry programs for biometric screening at airports.
  • TSA study how airports might transition to biometric systems.
  • TSA submit to Congress a report on best practices for issuing biometric credentials for airport workers.
  • The DHS secretary create a working group with industry stakeholders for consultation on biometric identification.

In a statement today, the American Association of Airport Executives said it supports Thompson's approach.

"The legislation Chairman Thompson has introduced opens the door to a coordinated approach between the federal government and industry," AAAE President Charles Barclay said in a news release.

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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