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8/11/2004
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TSA To Test Smart Access Cards For Employees

The seven-month test will let workers who volunteer personal information receive universal credentials for access to secure areas.

In an effort to secure airports and seaports as well as rail, pipeline, trucking, and mass-transit facilities, the Transportation Security Administration will spend the next seven months pilot-testing a program to provide workers at these locations with smart-card technology that would provide access to secure areas. The proposed Transportation Worker Identification Credential would be issued to transportation workers after the agency screens volunteered personal information against government anti-terrorism databases.

The agency's goal is to provide up to 200,000 transportation workers with a universal credential that would vouch for their identities at transportation facilities nationwide. Prototype operations will be conducted at 40 sites across six states. Some selected sites include Camden, N.J.; Islip, N.Y.; Philadelphia; Wilmington, Del.; the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.; and the 14 major port facilities in the state of Florida.

"The program is designed to ensure that individuals that are considered a threat don't gain access to secure areas within the transportation industry," an agency spokesman said Wednesday. The credentialing program will include biometric technology that scans fingerprints and irises, as well as a smart card with an integrated circuit chip. Individual transportation facilities will have the option of adding smart features such as a 2-D bar code, a linear bar code, an optical memory strip, and a magnetic strip to the cards they issue.

The success of the program will initially be determined by the transportation industry's willingness to use the technology. In the end, the spokesman says, the ID cards will help ensure the privacy of their users. "Workers will require only one background check, and TSA will use a secure record system to protect the data," he says.

On Tuesday, the agency said it has signed a $12 million deal with BearingPoint Inc. to provide project-management and evaluation services. BearingPoint will work with fellow contractors Lockheed Martin, Unisys, and Anteon to supply the agency with consulting and integration services as well as the smart-card technology. TSA will do the actual checking of card candidates against terrorist watch lists.

At the end of the pilot, BearingPoint will issue a report to the agency, which will make the final decision on whether to extend the program. "We want this to be a universal credential to protect the physical and logical aspects of the nation's transportation infrastructure," BearingPoint program manager Gordon Hannah says.

It's been a busy week for TSA. On Monday, the agency introduced its Registered Traveler pilot program at Boston's Logan International Airport. One of the key ingredients that makes the Registered Traveler and Transportation Worker Identification Credential programs different from the Computer-Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening (CAPPS II) program--which last month was put on the shelf--is that the new programs depend upon data that's volunteered from travelers and workers. CAPPS II ran into trouble when airlines turned passenger data over to TSA contractors without first notifying the passengers.

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