TSA preps smart ID programs

The Transportation Security Administration is ramping up its smart card-based programs designed to put identification into the hands of transportation workers nationwide and allow frequent travelers to get through airports quickly.

TSA is preparing to launch two regional pilot programs for its Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program that will provide workers in all modes of transportation — including airports, ports and railways — secure access to buildings and systems.

TWIC "is a system of information systems," said Elaine Charney, TWIC program manager at TSA. The goal is to produce an integrated system that can support one ID card that can be used across all modes of transportation, she said.

TSA will soon begin the three-month planning phase of the TWIC pilot program in the Philadelphia/Wilmington area, Charney said, and soon after will begin the planning phase for the Los Angeles/Long Beach area pilot program.

Each planning phase will be followed by a four-month technical evaluation phase and then a four-month prototype phase to evaluate and refine the products. During the technical evaluation phase, TSA plans to test access technologies that include:

* Digital photographs and holographic images.

* Optical media stripes.

* Memory-microprocessor ICC chips.

* Magnetic stripes.

* 2-D bar codes.

* Linear bar codes.

It also will evaluate TWIC components such as the enrollment center, a regional database and regional card production, personalization and issuance, said Charney, who was speaking at the CardTech SecurTech ID 2002 show in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19.

The TWIC program will form the foundation of another program TSA hopes to begin testing soon: the Registered Traveler Program, which will allow certain credentialed and pre-screened passengers to speed through security checkpoints in airports.

The program will reduce the "hassle factor" associated with passenger screening and allow airports to focus their security resources on passengers who present a greater security risk, said Michael Barrett, Registered Traveler Program manager at TSA. Another goal of the program is to provide screeners with additional information about the traveler, he said, speaking at the show.

TSA plans to consider "a lot of options," Barrett said, including biometric technologies and cost-sharing options. In the next 30 days, TSA hopes to bring together a blue-ribbon panel of key stakeholders to help the agency develop the program.

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