TSA prepares large-scale biometrics tests at airports

The Transportation Security Administration is readying a pilot to test several types of biometric devices at 20 U.S. airports.

The agency plans to release a request for proposals as early as next week for systems integrators, pending a final legal review, said Rick Lazarick, program manager for TSA's Airport Access Control Pilot Program.

TSA will issue a request for information today asking vendors on the National Institutes of Health's Chief Information Officer Solutions & Partners 2 Innovations contract to present their biometric technology.

Both task orders will be awarded through the CIO-SP2i contract vehicle.

Before the pilot begins, TSA must choose its systems integrators, select vendors' devices, and pick 20 airports from among 75 that applied to host the pilot.

'We sent out a letter in June and invited regulated airports to participate, and we're soliciting the vendor community to show us products,' Lazarick said recently at a conference in Washington.

The pilot will focus on verifying the identities of airport and airline employees at specific points for access control. The devices will include facial, fingerprint, hand geometry, iris and voice recognition technologies, Lazarick said.

They will be tested at airport turnstiles, vehicle gates where food service operators and other employees enter, terminal doors to the baggage area, and the general aviation boundary, the area between the pilot in the plane and the airport terminal.

'There's no barrier between [the pilot] and the commercial part of the airport,' Lazarick said.

TSA will decide where to place the devices based on the advice of the systems integrators and a nonprofit research and systems engineering company, Mitretek Systems Inc. of Falls Church, Va.

'One size does not fit all,' Lazarick said. 'That's the case at access control points at airports.'

Lazarick said TSA plans to be finished with the planning and contracting stage by the end of the year.

The Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 mandated $23 million worth of security tests, including biometric tests, at 20 airports.

So far, only a handful of airports have deployed biometrics, Lazarick said. San Francisco International Airport, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in Florida, Lincoln Airport in Nebraska, Des Moines International Airport in Iowa and Springfield Airport in Missouri are among those using fingerprint technology.

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