DHS Call for Biometric ID Proposals

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
After three years of little movement, the plan to furnish transportation workers with biometric ID cards is suddenly on the fast track, Washington Technology reported. The Homeland Security Department in May will solicit proposals for widespread deployment and make an award in July. But concerns remain about how the program, known as the Transportation Workers Identification Credential, will be funded and structured. Several large federal contractors, including BearingPoint of McLean, Va. and Lockheed Martin Corp., have confirmed they are interested in bidding for the fourth phase of the contract, which is production and deployment of cards for 850,000 port workers nationwide. BearingPoint was the contractor during TWIC’s third phase of prototyping, and Lockheed Martin is the prime systems integrator for a similar biometric identity card program, Registered Traveler, which enrolls frequent travelers at selected airports. Even so, a month before the May 8 scheduled release of Homeland Security’s request for proposals for the fourth phase of the transportation workers card, uncertainties remain about the program’s scope and how it is to be funded. The price tag for initial deployment of the card, to 10 million workers, is likely to be between $100m and $150m. That does not include readers, which will cost an additional $10m for the largest 25 ports; nor does it include ongoing operational costs. Other industry sources have estimated total costs of deployment, including purchase of card readers, to be as much as $1.2b nationwide for 12 million workers. Industry sources project an estimated cost of about $100 per credential. Fees collected from program participants are expected to cover a large part of the total operating costs, and the White House budget for fiscal 2007 contains no line item for it. DHS is expected to issue a rule on the fee structure soon. Congress mandated the card program in the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. As many as 12 million transportation workers nationwide will get the plastic cards, which will contain computer chips holding digitized versions of fingerprints. A worker must undergo a background check by the Transportation Security Administration before getting a card. The government is likely to seek contractors to coordinate the background checks, enrollment and issuance of the cards. Port and terminal operations would finance daily operation of the program, including the purchase, maintenance and operation of card readers and ongoing verifications of credentials for port workers. As with the prototype, the cards may be manufactured in a government facility. (Source: Washington Technology)

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