TSA preps smart ID pilot 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 projects for its Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) System that will provide workers at airports, ports, railways and other locations with secure access to buildings and systems.

TWIC is "a system of information systems," said Elaine Charney, TSA's TWIC program manager. The goal is to produce an integrated system that can support one identification card, which then can be used across all transportation industries, she said.

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

Each planning phase will be followed by a four-month technical evaluation. TSA will then conduct a four-month prototype so agency officials can evaluate and refine the products, including determining how effectively the pilot projects incorporated the different agency systems used to check employees' backgrounds.

During the technical evaluation phase, the administration plans to test access technologies that include digital photographs and holographic images, optical media stripes, memory-microprocessor chips, magnetic stripes, 2-D bar codes and linear bar codes.

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

The TWIC program would 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 would reduce the "hassle factor" associated with passenger screening and allow airport officials to focus their security resources on passengers who present a greater security risk, said Michael Barrett, Registered Traveler Program manager at TSA.

TSA plans to consider "a lot of options," Barrett said, including biometric technologies and cost-sharing options.

This "trusted traveler card" should improve privacy, said James Hall, managing partner of Hall and Associates and former National Transportation Safety Board chairman.

Encoding information on a card with a fingerprint is a secure way to protect the identity of card users, according to Hall.

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