Security

TSA expands rapid screening program

TSA agent

The Transportation Security Administration has accelerated expansion of its pre-approved expedited screening program, opening up a less expensive option, setting up an online applications process and adding expedited passenger lanes at more airports.

TSA's Pre Check pre-approved screening program allows passengers access to a speedy security line on a case-by-case basis, based on background data they've already provided. Passengers won't have to sign up for the program, be a member of an airline's frequent flier program or provide any background data beyond what they already give airlines when buying a ticket.

The aim of the case-by-case capabilities, said a TSA spokesman, is to add a third, less expensive tier to the pre-screening program enrollment process. The first two tiers are tied to separate international border identification programs, including Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry and Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection programs. Enrollment had previously cost $85 and required travelers to also be enrolled in the separate programs.

The newest enrollment option won't require a fee and uses intelligence-driven, flight-by-flight risk assessments to identify passengers who require either enhanced screening or are eligible for expedited screening.

TSA uses its Secure Flight program to compare passenger and non-traveler information to the No Fly and Selectee List components of the Terrorist Screening Database and, when security considerations warrant, against other watch lists maintained by TSA or other federal agencies. Those database comparisons happen 72 hours before a flight departs. Under the new program, passengers won't know they've been selected for expedited screening until their boarding pass is electronically read at the TSA checkpoint at the airport. They will then be directed to the faster line if their passes are coded for it.

TSA officials said the move toward intelligence-driven screening could benefit certain groups such as the elderly and children, which rank very low on the threat list.

The agency plans to open up Pre Check enrollment capabilities even further in the next few weeks when it unveils a website that will take applications for the program electronically, said a TSA spokesman.

The agency will also open its first two enrollment centers specifically for Pre Check applications this fall, at Washington Dulles International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport. The agency plans to expand to additional enrollment sites nationwide.

TSA is also moving to expand the program to include expedited passenger screening lanes in 60 more airports in the coming weeks, adding to the 40 where it is currently offered. TSA has said that more than 15 million passengers have used the expedited checkpoints since the program's launch in 2011.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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