What began as a pilot program by the Transportation Security Administration in 2004 is now a full-fledged program operated in partnership with airports, airlines, and private industry, while TSA plays more of a facilitating or advisory role. The Registered Traveler program (RT), designed to allow participants to avoid additional (they still have to undergo standard TSA security) screening at the airport by submitting to a background check and biometric identification, is now operational at a handful of airports across the United States and is expected to spread in the coming months.
The Registered Traveler program grew out of the demands of frequent travelers to avoid some of the hassles of additional screening at airports due to increased security measures following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
In 2004, the TSA operated a pilot program with Unisys Corporation at Minneapolis, Houston, and Los Angeles airports. Since then, other pilot programs have been conducted at Orlando International and Boston Logan International airports, among others.
Today, TSA and private industry have partnered to provide the RT program. According to TSA spokesperson Amy Kudwa, TSA provides oversight and guidance for the program, but it is the responsiblity of the airports, airlines, and private industry to provide the necessary systems and processes to support, manage, and operate the program.
TSA ensures that RT vendors wanting to provide RT services to airports, airlines, and the public have met its program requirements, while airports and airlines may partner for RT program operations only with TSA-approved RT vendors. Currently, there are three TSA-approved vendors: New York City-based Verified Identify Pass; Blue Bell, Pa-based Unisys Corp.; and Rochester, NY-based Verant Identification Systems Inc. Other vendors could receive TSA-approval in the future.
There are three ‘guiding principles’ under which the RT model has been authorizd:
- RT is a private sector program facilitated by the government but not subsidized by it.
- RT will not disadvantage non-participants.
- RT will not compromise the security of aviation transportation.
TSA Business Model
According to TSA, its business model for the RT program reflects the following business conditions:
- For purposes of managing airport screening protocols and consistent with current operations, TSA will have an RT business relationship with airports and air carriers.
- Passenger line management, prior to passengers arriving at TSA-staffed checkpoint screening positions, will continue to be the responsibility of the airports and/or airlines.
- TSA will not seek cost reimbursement from airports for physical screening until such time that any proposed RT processes change TSA duties and responsibilities to the point of increasing TSA’s costs.
- The RT program is comprised of two fees: one for private industry and one for TSA. TSA’s portion ($28) will cover the cost of completing a security threat assessment for each applicant and program management expenses.
- RT participants will be subject to all existing security procedures until airports propose lane reconfigurations with additional TSA-approved security measures. Such measures would be funded, installed, and maintained by airport or airline partners participating in the RT program.
- Anticipated RT benefits to the government are principally attracting more investment to security innovation and providing a pool of participants who have voluntarily completed background screening reviews to assist TSA in threat-reduction analysis.
The RT industry has come together to establish standards for the administration of the program with the adoption of the Registered Traveler Interoperability Consortium’s Tech-nical Interoperability Specification. This allows a person who is a registered traveler at one airport to use his or her credentials at any other airport with the program, without facing additional fees.
The Transportation Security Clearinghouse (TSC), a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), is the management system of travelers’ biometric data. The Central Information Management System (CIMS), as it is known, was developed using technology from Daon, LG Iris Technology Division, and Motorola. CIMS is responsible for processing all records, interfacing with TSA for background checks, ensuring a chain of trust from vetted enrollments and issued credentials, and sending alerts to all service providers regarding revoked credentials.
Larry Zmuda, partner, Homeland Security, Unisys Federal Systems, says the company learned a lot from operating the first RT pilot program, including some performance metrics that it will apply to future operations — such as how fast passengers can be processed and how to scale the program nationally.
Unisys will be rolling out its RT program at Reno/Tahoe International Airport, expected to be operational by the end of January. Zmuda says there will be multiple enrollment locations at Reno, with two RT locations at the airport’s security checkpoints. Like other vendors at Reno/Tahoe, Unisys will lease space to operate at the airport.
Most of the participants in the registered traveler program, explains Zmuda, will be those that are flying multiple times each month. But, the cost is at a level that infrequent travelers will be able to afford it. Unisys’s fee is around $100, says Zmuda, which includes the $28 TSA fee. He expects that as more RT programs come on line in the coming months, there will be continued and greater interest in RT programs at more airports.
Verified Identity Pass began operating a pilot program, Clear Pass, at Orlando International Airport in June 2005 when passengers could first enroll; it became fully operational in July 2005 and Verified was the first private sector company to receive TSA approval as an RT vendor in November 2006. As of December 2006, the company reports that 35,000 members had enrolled in the program at MCO. In January, Verified rolled out programs at JFK’s Terminal 7, Indianapolis International and Cincinnati International airports. Additionally, Toronto Pearson International Airport has signed an agreement with Clear to operate an RT program.
Currently, the cost to enroll is $99.95 per year, which includes the $28 TSA fee. According to Verified Identity Pass, the Clear membership will be interoperable at any U.S. airport with a registered traveler program, regardless of the vendor.
At MCO, a Clear member presents his or her Clear card, along with boarding pass and government-issued photo ID and confirms his or her name with the attendant. Once at the kiosk, the Clear card is inserted into the reader and the member follows instructions to verify his or her biometric, either iris or finger scan. Once approved, the Clear attendant stamps the passenger’s boarding pass and he or she is directed to the designated lane for TSA security screening.
Verified Identify Pass estimates that at MCO, the non-RT passenger maximum wait time is 31:48, while the maximum RT wait time is 3:00. The company also estimates that the average non-RT wait time is 4:16, while the average RT wait time is four seconds.