Although the airport security industry missed out on meeting TSA Administrator Neffenger, the annual security summit did provide some updates on other programs:
● Status of Rapback: Rapback is a criminal vetting process that automatically resubmits aviation worker fingerprints to determine if an individual who already has an airport identification badge, has subsequently been arrested or involved in criminal activity since receiving the badge. TSA’s captivity Assistant Administrator, Intelligence and Analysis Stacey Fitzmaurice noted that some volunteers have been going through a pilot program and information technology security requirements are also causing challenges to getting the program rolled out. She says they are doing another pilot program going into the first quarter of 2016.
● Cybersecurity and Technology: Arun Vemury, Director, APEX Air Entry and Exit Re-Engineering, Science and Technology Directorate, DHS, addressed biometrics and screening at the speed people move. Vemury noted that the overall challenge in aviation security is integrating new technologies and procedures into existing systems and environments that were never designed for them. Related to biometrics, Vemury said that biometrics are good for “telling me that I’ve seen this person before, but won’t necessarily tell you that you that you can trust that person.”
Other challenges with biometric identification for passengers relate to the database that individuals are compared to: whether the database can be trusted, and how the data was entered, and whether that is a flawed process. Biometrics tend to work on a one-on-one comparison, but with large populations it comes down to the database and whether the data can be trusted.
Rapback: Rapback has been taking too long. This program or a similar one that “re-vets” individuals that already have airport access identification badges should have been in place years ago. I remember prior to 9/11 where the FBI could not seem to get a criminal history record check completed inside of three months, yet after 9/11 within about a year’s time they were turning around in a matter of days. I don’t think the problem is technology as much as it is motivation. This needs to be a higher priority.
Biometrics: As I’ve said numerous times, biometrics should first be rolled out in the aviation worker population before it gets to the passenger-screening checkpoint. We all saw the problems with the initial no-fly and selectee lists, and those could be amplified incredibly if a biometric system for passengers is rolled out before it is been properly tested.