TSA awards smart card contract

The Transportation Security Administration awarded a $3.8 million contract April 23 to Maximus Inc. to help develop a universal smart card for transportation workers.

Seeking to tighten security around public transportation systems, Adm. James Loy, undersecretary of transportation for security, said 12 million transportation workers would use the cards to gain access to secure areas at transit sites. The card will include some kind of biometric identifier and make it easier for officials to complete a background check on workers.

"On Sept. 11, [2001,] the terrorists used our own aviation system against us, which caused a catastrophic loss to lives and to the transportation system and to our national economy," Loy said. "The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program is being designed to 'plug the holes' that may still exist by not allowing persons with dubious backgrounds to have access to secure locations of a transportation facility."

The program will be designed to clearly identify workers entering secure locations or nonpublic areas. Only limited information will be kept on the ID card and in a database, according to Loy.

Under the 150-day contract, Reston, Va.-based Maximus is expected to test and evaluate different kinds of IDs for a variety of transportation systems.

The company will be working with several subcontractors, including EDS, ActivCard Inc., Data-Trac, SEI Technology Inc., Information Spectrum Inc. and Actcom Inc.

"TWIC is the next step to enhance security for all the modes of the transportation system, keeping us one step ahead of the terrorist," Loy said.

It will provide employees at airports, seaports, railways and other locations with secure access to buildings and systems. Through a single network of databases, it will enable quick dissemination of threat alerts and revocation of access.

The program received $35 million for pilot projects and prototypes in fiscal 2003, and its funding more than tripled to $127 million in the Bush administration's fiscal 2004 budget request.

TSA will run the pilot projects at facilities in the Philadelphia/Wilmington, Del., and the Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif., areas. Workers will participate on a voluntary basis and carry their existing cards as well as the test cards.

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