Daily Breeze

Sept. 11, 2002

Transportation ID put on hold

By TOBY ECKERT
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Congress has quietly put the brakes on plans for a uniform identification card for dockworkers, airport employees and other transportation workers.

The Transportation Security Administration considers the initiative a
vital post-Sept. 11 safety measure that could also be a building block for a “trusted traveler” program to speed frequent fliers through airport security.

But Congress barred the TSA from spending money on the ID program in a budget bill it approved in July, TSA chief James Loy said Tuesday.

“I was directed not to spend another nickel, basically, on the
Transportation Worker Identification Card,” Loy told the Senate Commerce Committee.

He indicated that Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., who chairs the House
Appropriations transportation subcommittee, had technical concerns about the program. Rogers could not be reached for comment.

Officials at the Port of Los Angeles are moving forward with an ID
system of their own that would apply to 25,000 workers there.

The TSA hopes Congress will restore funding for the national program in the federal budget for fiscal year 2003, which starts Oct. 1.

The transportation worker ID was considered “a foundation block from which we could grow” a separate trusted traveler or registered traveler program, Loy said. Under that program, frequent fliers could voluntarily undergo background checks and move through airport security more quickly than other travelers.

Loy’s predecessor, John Magaw, had voiced reservations about that idea. Magaw, who was forced out of the job in July, said he feared terrorists could infiltrate such a program.

But Loy said he was “convinced that we can balance the needs of security with common sense for those who agree to register for this program and submit to a detailed background check.”

The proposal to create a uniform ID for thousands of workers with access to security sensitive areas at transportation facilities arose from the wholesale reassessment of transportation safety following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Federal officials raised concerns about the relatively open access to
U.S. seaports, which were seen as vulnerable to a terrorist attack or
the smuggling of a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon. They also were disturbed by the large number of people who obtained fraudulent commercial driver’s licenses, including ones that allowed the transport of hazardous materials.

The transportation industry has generally embraced the idea of a uniform ID. Unions have voiced concerns about it, including standards that would be used for background checks.