TSA readies Registered Traveler system

Publication of business model was final major step

The Transportation Security Administration’s Registered Traveler passenger screening program cleared its last major hurdle when TSA published an extensive business model in late May that details the program’s operation.

The agency must still work out several details of the program, including specific business procedures and technical and security standards, based on public comments.

However, industry participants in the program were enthusiastic about what they’ve seen so far. “It’s pretty much what we were looking for,” said Steven Brill, chief executive officer of Verified Identity Pass. “We still need clarification on such things as the fees that will be charged for people to take part in the program, but generally it’s a good document and a big advance” on previous plans.

The business model means the program is nearly ready, and it signals that Verified Identity Pass can start enrolling travelers in the program this month, Brill said.

Initially scheduled to start screening passengers nationally June 20, Registered Traveler is intended to help speed airport security checks by designating passengers enrolled in the program as low risk and allowing them to pass through security without the usual screening.

Travelers cleared to use the program will provide biometrics such as fingerprints or iris patterns that will be part of a smart card they must use to bypass the screening stations at airports.

TSA will act as a facilitator for the Registered Traveler program to help build early momentum. Airports and the private sector will then take over the program, according to the plan.

This model “does start to move things off the plate of the TSA and…onto the plate of the airports and the private-sector operators,” said Larry Zmuda, a partner at Unisys responsible for its Registered Traveler operations. “It still needs those [technical and security] standards, but we can at least start working with the airports while the standards are being developed.”

A significant next step for the program is the release of requests for proposals from airports for Registered Traveler’s installation, Zmuda said. With the business model in place, airports could start issuing RFPs.

A TSA spokeswoman said the program’s timeline is still fairly loose, but TSA expects a dozen or so tests to begin by the end of June once private-sector providers and airports are ready. TSA will begin security threat assessments of Registered Traveler users around that time, she said.

TSA has not set a deadline for public comment on the published model. That will largely depend on the tests’ success, she said. But TSA expects to begin a rulemaking procedure to launch a nationwide implementation of Registered Traveler some time in the second half of this year.

Zmuda said a fairly broad nationwide program could be in place by the end of 2007. Most major airports should have Registered Traveler installed by then with smaller regional airports following close behind, he said.

Companies agree to use AAAE clearinghouse

A fundamental part of the Transportation Security Administration’s Registered Traveler model is the Central Information Management System network, which will receive and format program enrollment data and transmit it to TSA and other federal bodies. The system will also verify that commercial service providers can interoperate with the program.

A front-runner as the industry choice for the TSA system is the American Association of Airport Executives’ Transportation Security Clearinghouse, which is also used for security clearances for other federal programs.

Verified Identity Pass and Unisys, which have been major players in Registered Traveler’s development, have already signed on to use the clearinghouse.

Larry Zmuda, a partner at Unisys’ federal group, said the clearinghouse’s cost structure and schedule closely follow that of the TSA model, and it is a major component of a nationwide interoperable Registered Traveler program.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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