DOT to pursue biometrics

The new Transportation Security Administration plans to incorporate biometrics into pilot programs at airports nationwide, according to Rick Lazarick, an integration lead for airport security technology with the Federal Aviation Administration.

"We're going to spread it out and get a look at a lot of different things," Lazarick said at the Biometric Consortium Conference Feb. 13.

Go Team No. 9 — one of about 36 transportation task forces formed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — completed its analysis last month of biometric technologies, which use techniques such as facial recognition, fingerprinting and eye scans to identify people.

The team has recommended TSA pursue applications for employees, surveillance, passengers, pilots, flight crew and air traffic controllers. It isn't pushing a full-scale deployment at this point, but rather a trial of several possibilities.

The effort will require a systems integrator, Lazarick said.

Most of the biometrics technologies aren't going to remain for the long-term, Lazarick said. "We're demonstrating new and emerging technologies so there's an information base," he added.

Trusted passenger cards, also dubbed the EZ-Pass, won't be part of the pilot programs, which is focusing on identification and threat assessment. Government and airline officials, however, are working on the technology, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said last week.

"We're open to the idea of a smart card for frequent fliers if it can be proven that it will not compromise security," TSA spokesman Paul Takemoto said.

That philosophy extends to other areas as well. "We won't compromise security for the sake of efficiency," Takemoto said.

TSA will launch the programs — in at least 20 airports as federally mandated — in about six months, Lazarick said. The Transportation Department has received an appropriation with a ceiling of $23 million for short-term demonstrations.

"We want to move fast and we want to be open," he said.

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