DHS exploring integration of ID card standards

The Homeland Security Department is considering how to fit the Transportation Worker Identification Card standards into the requirements it is developing for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative’s People Access Security Service card.

Ralph Basham, commissioner of DHS' Customs and Border Protection agency, today said his directorate sees significant benefit for TWIC card holders to be able to use the credentials to enter the United States.

“Hundreds of thousands of TWIC cards will be handed out and this just makes sense,” he said today after his luncheon speech at a conference on radio frequency identification devices sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

TWIC relies on smart-card technology, using the ISO 14443 standard, while DHS and the State Department have been leaning toward long-range RFID technology. The smart -ard and RFID technologies require different hardware and software and are not integrated easily.

Basham said DHS and State have not made a final decision on what the PASS card will look like. He said DHS will launch the WHTI program by Jan. 31, but the PASS card requirement will not be a part of the initial roll out.

DHS expects to fully implement WHTI by the end of 2008.

Basham said he does not know the timeframe to make a final decision on the PASS card standard.

He also said DHS is closely following the Washington state pilot that will use enhanced driver’s licenses as identification at border crossings. The Washington program will use long-range RFID and will issue its first cards in January.

“We still are setting the requirements for the enhanced driver’s license,” Basham said. “If the Washington pilot worked out — and it looks promising — we will consider their standards.”

The enhanced driver’s license could satisfy WHTI as a low-cost alternative that state motor vehicle administrations are in a position to start handing out, Basham said.

He added that along with Arizona, Vermont and Washington, which have committed to pilots, California, Michigan, New York and Texas are discussing test programs with DHS.

Basham also said DHS’ efforts on cargo security are moving forward. He said CBP has people checking cargo at 58 ports worldwided. These sites account for 85 percent of all cargo coming to the United States, he said.

Additionally, DHS started test programs at ports in Pakistan and Honduras that attempts to screen 100 percent of all cargo coming here, Basham said, and another cargo pilot will kick off shortly in the United Kingdom.

“We are testing the technology to ensure it works,” he said. “Under the Safe Ports Act, we have to have 100 percent cargo screening by 2012, but the law also gives the secretary some flexibility if the technology doesn’t work.”

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