TSA to test passenger fast lane

Up to 10,000 volunteers will be scanned for biometric characteristics in a pilot test of a program to find more detailed ways to screen travelers.

Transportation Security Administration officials said today that they want to test a program designed to bolster security and increase efficiency in screening travelers at airports nationwide. Rear Adm. David Stone, acting administrator of TSA, announced that the agency is seeking proposals from companies for a registered traveler pilot test that will begin at a few airports in late June. The contract will be awarded in early June.

The pilot will test biometric technology such as iris scanners and possibly fingerprint readers to see whether they enhance security and efficiency. TSA officials are looking for biometric systems that are ready to use, accurate, cost effective and capable of confirming the identities of large populations quickly. The pilot program is expected to use 5,000 to 10,000 volunteer travelers.

"It allows us to target our resources, and whenever we do that, we improve security," TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser said. "There is also a customer service benefit. It allows registered travelers to pass more quickly into secure areas, reducing the wait time for all passengers."

If everything works well, officials expect people taking part in the program will pass through airport security more quickly than other travelers.

Final decisions about the number and location of airports in the pilot test have not yet been made, Kayser said.

The test also will be used to evaluate systems integration and tactical operations components. Integration will require that the information technology system fully integrate biometric identification with the results of security assessments for fast and accurate identification and status at airport security checkpoints.

Federal officials will conduct the assessments, so the contractor must preserve connectivity between government security assessment databases and the selected airport locations. The tactical operations component will consist of enrolling volunteers, issuing cards and assisting passengers.

The systems integration requirements include developing a database of volunteers, creating a system to report and "turn off" lost or damaged tokens or credentials, and ensuring security of data transmission and storage, as well as redundancy measures.

Stone spoke last month before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Aviation Subcommittee, on the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II.

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