Air Transport World

Security knocks: workers may want easier access around airports, but an uncertain TWIC program may lack the drive to do the job.(Transport Worker Identification Card)

Establishing a person's identity with a high degree of certainty is the point of the Transport Worker Identification Card, an ambitious Transportation Security Administration program that may start to see the light of day this year.

Unfunded and little-reported to date, the TWIC is starting to move toward becoming TSA's identity verification medium of choice for all transportation workers in America, with one or more biometric measures--yet to be selected-confirming identities. Further, TWIC's similarity to the proposed "registered traveler" program has made it the natural precursor for that effort, TSA officials have said, And yet the future of the program is far from certain.

It is not so much the technology that makes the TWIC an ambitious undertaking, although there is some trouble there too. Rather it is the scope of the envisioned application: Maritime ports and trucking facilities as well as airports. This scope, covering millions of cardholders and many thousands of locations, has some of those involved doubting whether the final product will resemble the one currently imagined.

Two recent events helped push the program along. One was RTCA's adoption last month of new Airport Access Control Standards. A month before that, the US government published a call for vendor white papers on candidate biometric technologies--essentially a technology fishing expedition--with a due date of June 30. Selected proposals will enter a 6-12-month development and testing phase.

Two things are evident in the white paper request. One is that management of the program already has become tricky, as the request was issued by DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration. TWIC was born in DOT, but when TSA was hived off to the Department of Homeland Security some responsibilities remained behind, splitting "ownership" of the project.

The second issue raised by the call for papers is the complicated nature of the proposed task, including "the ability for a TWIC cardholder to migrate seamlessly across a system that may include multiple but different biometric vendor solutions, e. …

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