CAPPS gains in TSA request

Transportation Security Administration

In this year's budget proposal, President Bush would increase funding for a controversial airline passenger identification system being developed by the Transportation Security Administration.

In the administration's fiscal 2005 budget request, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) II is slated to receive $60 million in 2005 funding, an increase of $15 million over requested 2004 levels.

CAPPS II, currently in a limited test phase, is designed to identify possible terrorists as they attempt to board commercial aircraft. The system would require passengers to provide additional personal information that TSA would check against commercial databases and lists of known terrorists and people wanted for violent crimes.

Although the administration touts CAPPS II as a way to increase airline safety, privacy advocates criticize the program because they fear that passengers' personal information might be unnecessarily shared or stored in government databases.

In September, Congress requested a study of the system by the General Accounting Office to ensure that CAPPS II does not violate privacy rights before it is fully deployed. The results of the study have yet to be released.

Meanwhile, another major TSA information technology program, the billion-dollar, performance-based Information Technology Managed Services contract, saw funding rebalanced among its major components.

The ITMS contract between TSA and Unisys Corp. is intended to develop the agency's IT infrastructure and networks.

The ITMS infrastructure segment would receive $158.6 million in 2005, an increase from its requested 2004 level of $145.9 million. Likewise, the ITMS communications feature is on tap for $54 million, up from the $37.7 million in the requested 2004 budget.

However, the ITMS Office Automation program, which includes personal computing for TSA employees, would receive $65.6 million in 2005, compared to $109.3 million in 2004.

Together, these three main segments would receive a combined $278.2 million in the President's 2005 budget, which is slightly less than the $292.9 million these programs received in the requested 2004 budget.

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