Business case has CAPPS at risk

Money is far from certain for the Transportation Security Administration's proposed system to screen airline passengers, said Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget's associate director for information technology and e-government.

The business case for the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II is one of hundreds on OMB's "at risk" list for fiscal 2004, meaning that OMB can and will hold money for the system until the business case has met investment planning requirements, Forman said March 25.

Although TSA has not met a recent deadline for modifying the CAPPS II business case, the agency awarded a contract for its development to Lockheed Martin Corp. in February. "I have a huge spotlight on that program," Forman said.

He was testifying before the House Government Reform Committee's Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census Subcommittee at a hearing on data-mining technologies and programs in government.

One of the main issues with the business case is that OMB is looking for a risk-based approach to screening passengers rather than another version of a watch list, Forman said. Government already has too many watch lists, and there has to be a more effective way for TSA to determine which passengers truly pose a risk, Forman said.

"We're looking for clear documentation that [TSA has] developed an approach that will improve productivity," he said. "If at the end of the day it does not lower risk, then I have to say that it is not a good investment."

Also at the hearing, a coalition of private-sector groups — including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center — released a joint letter to Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman and ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee, respectively.

In the letter, the coalition called for Congress to stop the CAPPS II system until a series of questions are answered, ensuring that it is consistent with citizens' privacy protections.

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