Homeland Security priorities: Low-risk travel

The Homeland Security department's top priorities this year include facilitating free and open international trade and travel while also maintaining security, Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Jan. 30.

In her “State of America’s Homeland Security” speech, Napolitano said the department is applying a “risk-based and information-focused” approach to travel and trade that includes expansion of programs to ease the way for low-risk cargo and travelers.

For example, DHS’ trusted traveler programs allow for expedited screenings for low-risk air travelers. The programs, including Global Entry for U.S. travelers at 20 U.S. airports, enrolled more than 1 million individuals as of May 2011. .

Global Entry will be enhanced to add more airport locations in 2012 to support President Barack Obama’s recent executive order on expansion of tourism to the United States, Napolitano said.

In addition, the Transportation Security Administration recently began the PreCheck initiative at seven airports that allows for expedited screenings for domestic travelers who volunteer information in advance. Those prescreened travelers will not have to remove shoes, jackets, belts or laptops at the security checkpoint, Napolitano said. The PreCheck program also will be expanded to more airports in 2012, Napolitano said.

Napolitano described both the Global Entry and the PreCheck programs as a “shift away from one-size-fits-all to risk-based screening. Both of these initiatives strengthen security while expediting travel and trade.”

Expansion of trusted traveler programs is likely to include additional airport kiosks for electronic document reading, along with database support and traveler identification cards with biometrics.

Similar principles are being applied to ease barriers for cargo screening for trusted international cargo shippers that undergo extensive vetting, she added. For example, the Beyond Borders program with Canada aims to simplify trade between the two countries for trusted shippers.

Other priorities for DHS this year include maintaining and increasing cybersecurity protections and awareness, securing the borders and maintaining preparedness for natural disasters, Napolitano said. 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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