TSA set to test TWIC card reader technology

After deciding on five locations to test the biometric piece of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program and issuing the card’s architecture standards in September, the Transportation Security Administration will hold a vendor day Nov. 19 to discuss card reader specifications and the tests in more detail, said Maurine Fanguy, TWIC program manager.

TSA announced that Watermark Cruises in Annapolis, Md., and the ports of Los Angeles; Long Beach, Calif.; New York and New Jersey; and Brownsville, Texas,  will begin using card readers to evaluate the operational impact of the biometric verification system.

“We are looking at other ports to participate, too, including towing and other brown water or ocean vessels,” Fanguy said during a presentation at the Interagency Smart Card Advisory Board meeting in Washington last week. “The tests will start at the end of 2007 or early 2008.”

TSA issued working technical specifications for TWIC card reader hardware and applications in September, including user identification, password and contactless biometric capabilities and the requirement that it take no more than 3 seconds per person.

Fanguy said TSA also will test readers in two other ways: in a laboratory environment against a set of benchmarks and full-system operational testing at ports.

TSA began issuing TWIC cards Oct. 16 in Delaware and expanded to five other locations last week, including Baton Rouge, La., and Oakland, Calif., and will add at least 10 more ports by the end of this month. TSA enrolled more than 1,200 workers in the program in its first three weeks.

“The TWIC technical architecture is compatible with the credentialing standards established in Federal Information Processing Standard 201-1,” Fanguy said during an Oct. 30 hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee. “This alignment is critical to support card and reader interoperability within the maritime mode.”

Fanguy added that because of the comments TSA received on the initial TWIC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, it removed the requirement for biometric readers from the TWIC final rule to allow time to establish technology specifications to support maritime operations.

She said TSA, the Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology will establish a test plan to evaluate the card reader interface under a variety of conditions and assess its effect on operations.

TSA and the Coast Guard also are developing procedures for the sharing of fingerprints, identity verification, criminal history and photographs for TWIC, Fanguy said.

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