TSA unveils plan for Registered Traveler program

The Transportation Security Administration has finally published the model it intends to follow in building its Registered Traveler program, after several months of soliciting private sector advice on what to include.

The program, which is intended to speed airport security checks for travelers, will begin with a six-month startup phase during the second half of this year after the TSA issues draft standards, probably in June. The following national program will be launched through a federal rulemaking process that will begin later this year.

The standards – which include guidelines for service-oriented architecture, middleware and other technologies -- will provide a common baseline for private sector participation to ensure security needs are met and are continually validated, the TSA said. The model will be used to detail those standards, but it isn’t intended to supersede them.

A fundamental part of the model is the Central Information Management System (CIMS) network, which is described as a “commercially neutral entity” -- that is, not associated with the airlines or airports -- that will receive and format program enrollment data and then make sure that data is transmitted to the TSA or any other federal body that needs it. The CIMS will also validate and check the biometric enrollment data against information stored in the CIMS database.

The CIMS network will also be used to verify that service providers can interoperate with the program.

For biometrics, people enrolling in the Registered Traveler program will have the option of either providing 10 flat fingerprint images or two iris images, unless they are physically unable to do so. Their pictures will also be printed on their Registered Traveler identity cards, though it can’t be used in place of a biometric.

Participants will also be given the option of pre-enrolling through secure Web sites provided by enrollment providers. Travelers can do this by providing biographical information, though identity documents and biometric data still have to be collected in person.

The TSA said all of its activities in the program will be completely funded through the fees it will set through the upcoming rulemaking process. For the initial startup phase, the fee is expected to be up to $30 a year for each Registered Traveler applicant.

The program’s enrollment process could also be used to enroll people in other government credentialing programs. The TSA said it is working with Customs and Border Protection and other agencies on this and expects to phase in the capability for Registered Travel applicants to also provide information for those programs if they wish.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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