TWIC smart card testing starts on both coasts

Initial testing for a nationwide identification card for transportation workers began yesterday on the East Coast and last week on the West Coast, a Transportation Security Administration official said yesterday.

A pilot group is using the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC, in airports serving Los Angeles and Philadelphia, said Paul Hunter, TSA's operations manager and deputy director of the TWIC project. He spoke at the Smart Cards in Government 2003 conference in Arlington, Va.

TWIC is designed to improve security by standardizing credentials across all modes of transportation. The government ultimately will do background checks and other authentication of 12 million to 15 million airport, rail and port workers, and truckers. Only personnel who require unescorted access to secure areas will need TWIC to do their jobs.

The pilot evaluation period will last until September. Under a 150-day, $3.8 million contract, Maximus Inc. of Reston, Va., and EDS Corp. will field-test the cards with integrated-circuit chips, optical and magnetic stripes, and single and two-dimensional bar codes.

A prototype stage, beginning between September and November, will involve more than 10,000 transportation workers serving ports, airports, rail and trucking facilities in Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif., and Philadelphia-Wilmington, Del., Hunter said. Biometrics will be introduced into the cards then, along with the processes for background checks and trusted agents.

The federal government is developing the credential card to accommodate multiple technologies now available. 'But it's up to the local facilities to decide which technologies they need and to issue the card,' Hunter said.

TSA will develop policies during the testing period so that the agency need collect only minimal amounts of data to identify a worker, he said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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