TSA preps smart card program

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 more than 10 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 transportation worker ID card will provide secure access to buildings and computer networks and will feature biometric information, most likely fingerprints, Hawrylko said at the Smart Card Alliance's conference last week in Washington, D.C.

TSA will maintain a central index of basic employee information that could include name, biometric information, approved 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 solicit 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 DOT official said, but the program could go agencywide within three years.

TSA's budget for fiscal 2003 has yet to be determined. The Bush administration is asking for $4.8 billion.

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

If all goes according to schedule, the TSA program will likely be the largest civilian agency smart card rollout and will set the stage for future programs, said Bill Holcombe, director of e-business technologies at GSA. "Whatever they come up with could be the basis for what all civilian agencies use in the future," he said.

For instance, the State Department's program has issued 250 cards so far, said Lolie Kull, access control smart card implementation program manager for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, speaking at the conference. State hopes to have another 20,000 cards completed by August, Kull said.

But a rollout the size of TSA's won't be easy. One of the biggest challenges will be authenticating users' identities before the cards are issued, Holcombe said.

***

TSA's smart card

* The program will impact 10 to 20 million transportation workers.

* TSA will align its program with the General Services Administration's smart card interoperability specifications.

* The same architecture will support the trusted traveler cards for frequent airline passengers.

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