TSA plans two smart card pilot projects

The Transportation Security Administration plans to launch at least two pilot projects this year for a smart card program that eventually will put the identification technology into the hands of 10 million to 15 million workers, a transportation official said June 5.

"Our vision is to have one credential a transportation worker will wear," said Gregg Hawrylko, program manager for the Transportation Department's Credential Project Office. "We're hoping to simplify the process and raise the bar on security."

The cards will provide secure access to buildings and computer networks and will hold biometrics, most likely in the form of fingerprints, Hawrylko said at the Smart Card Alliance's conference this week in Washington, D.C.

TSA will maintain a central index of basic employee information that could include name, biometric template, security level and areas of access. "We will store as little as possible to handle privacy concerns," he said.

The agency will make its procurements through the General Services Administration's Smart Access Common ID contract but will soon release an announcement soliciting ideas from all vendors, he said.

Working groups are finalizing issues related to the cards, such as design, identity documentation, requirements, policy and a cost-sharing strategy.

The pilot projects could be focused around major airline hubs or seaports, he said.

"Funding will dictate how quickly we can run," a transportation official said, but the program could go agencywide within three years.

Congress has criticized the fledgling TSA's spending and has yet to determine its budget for fiscal 2003. The Bush administration is asking for $4.8 billion.

In the near-term, TSA will set the policy for trusted traveler cards for frequent airline passengers. However, John Magaw, Transportation undersecretary for security, has said that there is no card that will allow people to get through security completely, Hawrylko noted.

The trusted traveler cards could be developed in tandem with the smart cards and will use the same architecture.

TSA is coordinating its effort with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is moving forward with its own smart card pilot project.

"They're just running a little bit faster than us," the transportation official said. "We're looking forward to finding out what lessons they learned."

Both agencies will align their programs with GSA-developed smart card interoperability specifications.

A top priority is ensuring interoperability throughout DOT, Dan Mehan, the FAA's chief information officer, said May 22 at the E-Security and Homeland Defense conference in New York City.

The Aviation and Transportation Security Act, signed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, requires the department to develop a universal worker identification system.

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