ALPA, Industry Push for 'Smart Card' Access-Control IDs

ALPA and seven other prominent airline industry organizations recently called for creation of an "independent, not-for-profit organization of stakeholders," including airline labor groups, to develop and put into use access-control and identity-verification (ACIV) systems based on "smart cards."

On March 6, the eight groups sent a joint letter to Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS), and John Magaw, Department of Transportation Undersecretary and head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The groups warned that lack of such a system for airport employees, travelers, and transient flight and cabin crews "continues to unnecessarily complicate all of our shared efforts to further enhance aviation security."

Signing the joint letter were the presidents of the eight groups—Capt. Duane Woerth, ALPA; Carol Hallett, Air Transport Association; Charles Barclay, American Association of Airport Executives; Edward P. Faberman, Air Carrier Association of America; Stephen A. Alterman, Cargo Airline Association; Ronald A. Priddy, National Air Carrier Association; Deborah C. McElroy, Regional Airline Association; and James K. Coyne, National Air Transport Association.

They acknowledged that numerous decisions must be made to deploy ACIV systems. These include setting technical specifications for smart cards and interoperable software, plus establishing operational rules and principles (e.g., basis for issuance, procedures for application and use, etc.).

The joint letter to the TSA and OHS urged creation of a group of "stakeholders" to develop and test all necessary specifications, rules, and principles for ACIV systems, subject to final approval by the government.

This concept, said the eight signatories to the letter, is similar to the coordinated efforts of the organizations that created the banking industry’s ATM card system and the benefit card system that is replacing paper food stamps in many parts of the nation.

"In both of these examples, governmental and private cooperation in the development process has produced flawlessly performing, secure platforms," the joint letter pointed out.

The aviation organizations stressed that they want to act quickly to launch such a process, but that they "are seeking first, however, an indication of interest from both the TSA and OHS in this approach."

The TSA is actively working on developing the framework for evaluating various technical and smart-card solutions for TSA personnel to use. TSA envisions that its system, called the Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC), would be "intermodal"—i.e., could be used by workers in all modes of transportation in the United States.

In meetings with aviation industry representatives, including ALPA, TSA has presented a proposal for the TWIC system that seems well thought out regarding hardware, software, procedures, and protection of due process for workers. However, major policy issues—including the issue of who will pay for the TWIC system—remain unresolved.

TSA said it would conduct an intermodal trial of the TWIC concept (in a region of the United States as yet undisclosed) from April through September of this year, but it had not started by press time in early June. Moreover, with the major policy issues unresolved, no one has offered any kind of schedule for when such a system might be installed and used throughout the nation.

Implementation of the TWIC system is ALPA’s highest security priority, and the Association will continue to push for immediate implementation of this system for flight crews.