TSA announces next steps for Registered Traveler program – agency will launch at 10-20 airports

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National Press Release
Thursday, April 20, 2006

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced its intent to proceed with Registered Traveler (RT) in the second half of 2006. TSA will be prepared for a roll-out at 10 to 20 airports. These airports will come on line as the private sector operators make the necessary business arrangements with host airports and air carriers and get security approval from TSA for the proposed configuration. A phased approach to implementation will allow the agency to confirm the private sector’s ability to provide interoperability among RT airports, evaluate the impact of alternate checkpoint processes on screening and wait times, and ensure that RT maintains the agency’s high security standards. Subject to public demand for the RT Program, TSA would expect RT to operate on a national scale next year.

 “TSA is working with airports and private sector providers, and we will enable the private sector to launch Registered Traveler programs as soon as this summer,” said Assistant Secretary for TSA, Kip Hawley. “Security will be maintained, the program will be paid for by the private sector, and it will not disadvantage the general public when they fly.”

As part of this decision, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and TSA leadership have approved a basic business model for Registered Traveler. Key elements include a strong operational role for the private sector, mandatory interoperability among airport locations, an open technological platform that facilitates competition, a central information management system (known as the Transportation Security Clearinghouse managed by the American Association of Airport Executives) with robust safeguards to protect personal privacy, and substantive benefits linked to enhanced checkpoint screening measures. TSA retains responsibility for setting key program standards and security measures – such as physical screening at the TSA checkpoint.  

Participants will experience a passenger screening process that is modified to afford greater customer service. At those checkpoints where the layout and traveler volumes permit, RT participants will have a dedicated RT lane and will receive additional screening benefits. While the combination of benefits and security measures available at each participating airport may vary, all RT travelers should receive an expedited and more convenient checkpoint experience.

RT participants will be able to utilize RT program services at any participating airport. Interoperability is a core principle of Registered Traveler, and biometric standards have been established to facilitate the development of compatible systems by the private sector. The initial implementation will gather operational experience that will benefit program expansion.  

Additionally, in relation to the April 20 milestones, the agency has received bids from companies wishing to assist in the development of the verification and validation standards. An award is expected by the end of the month. A draft amendment to the Airport Security Plan for RT has been completed and will continue to evolve as TSA develops the RT standards and operational details.

TSA is also facilitating the private sector efforts to develop a plan for interoperability standards.

As the agency said earlier this year, RT is also expected to provide several overall enhancements to aviation security. In order to enter the RT program, applicants must provide biographic information, which will be verified and authenticated to safeguard against the use of a false or stolen identity. All applicants must undergo a TSA Security Threat Assessment that includes perpetual vetting. When traveling, an RT participant must confirm his or her identity at an RT station using biometrics (fingerprints or iris). RT participants will still be required to pass through the metal detector, have their carry-on and checked luggage screened, and will be subject to secondary screening by TSA if they trigger an alarm. Consistent with TSA policies, an element of randomness will also be integrated into Registered Traveler to ensure unpredictability and disrupt potential efforts by terrorists to thwart the system.

TSA will begin implementing Registered Traveler as a pilot program in 10 to 20 airports. Operations at these airports will be used to evaluate the impact of alternate checkpoint processes on screening and wait times before nationwide implementation. Details about these locations – including eligibility and program requirements – will be published in the coming months. Locations will be proposed by airports and approved by TSA based on a combination of factors, including interest, physical layout, passenger traffic levels, and suitability for testing different processes. The initial RT programs will be partially fee-funded, and TSA will set the fee through a notice published in the Federal Register.  

Concurrently, the agency will undertake a rulemaking to expand beyond the initial 10 to 20 airports and implement RT on a national scale. The rulemaking will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the nationwide implementation of the RT program, as well as allow criminal history record checks to be added to the background checks of program applicants.